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Most mothers-to-be heed safe drinking guidelines

But only 20% could say what the current recommended safe drinking limits are

Mark Gould

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Almost nine in 10 (88%) mothers don’t approve of drinking during pregnancy, except for the "occasional sip" or on "special occasions", according to a new survey by the alcohol education charity Drinkaware.

But only 20% of those asked could correctly identify the current guidance on drinking alcohol whilst pregnant and 80% think it’s stricter than it actually is.

Drinkaware commissioned pollsters YouGov to carry out an online survey in June and July this year which contacted 1,506 women with a current/recent pregnancy. Half said they weren’t given any advice about drinking while pregnant while almost a fifth said they had to seek out advice themselves. The Government’s Chief Medical Officer recommends that pregnant women, or women trying for a baby, should avoid alcohol altogether. If they do choose to drink, to minimise the risk to the baby, they should not have more than one to two units of alcohol once or twice a week, and not get drunk. Midwives were most likely to proactively talk to women about drinking during pregnancy. Women were most likely to seek advice from the NHS website.

More than half of women (56%) said they received conflicting information about drinking in pregnancy and a third (33%) said that the information they were given was not clear or easy to understand. Those who received advice were more likely to drink during pregnancy (63% vs. 44%). Most women said they only drank once or twice during their pregnancy with younger women (18-29) drinking less than older women (36+), but older women were more likely to seek out advice.

The research reveals that the majority of women (92%) are not exceeding the current guidelines of more than two units once or twice a week. Drinkaware chief executive Elaine Hindal says: “When we spoke to mums they told us that the variety of information available on alcohol and pregnancy can appear to be conflicting. Half said they weren’t given any advice at all about drinking while pregnant with many having to seek out advice themselves.

“Our research highlights the importance of parents receiving clear and consistent advice so that they can make informed choices about drinking alcohol during pregnancy. For many mums the current Government guidelines do not go far enough.

“Our advice is to follow the guidance of the Chief Medical Officer and avoid drinking at all whilst pregnant or trying to conceive. If you have drunk alcohol in your pregnancy please do not worry but get in contact with your GP or midwife.”

Mr Ian Currie, vice president for UK Affairs at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) said: “We are very encouraged by these results which suggest that the majority of women choose not to drink alcohol during pregnancy. We sympathise with women who find the current advice conflicting but the general advice still remains that there is no known safe amount of alcohol that you can drink during pregnancy.

“Current evidence suggests that drinking 1 – 2 units of alcohol, once or twice a week, is not harmful to the baby, but in the early stages of pregnancy, alcohol is known to increase the risk of miscarriage and affect the early stages of a baby’s development, which is why our advice is very clear that women trying to conceive, and those in the first three months of pregnancy, should avoid alcohol completely.

“We were disappointed that half of respondents did not receive any information on alcohol consumption during pregnancy, as this is an ideal time for a woman to make lifestyle changes. Women and their families should be provided with clear and accurate information about alcohol consumption during pregnancy, as well as information on other lifestyle factors that can affect the health of their unborn baby, such as smoking and healthy eating.”

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