Pregnant women who drink during pregnancy may be having an impact on their child's IQ, according to a major new study.
Researchers at Bristol and Oxford universities found that women who consumed a moderate amount of alcohol – as little as two glasses of wine a week – can reduce the mental faculties of unborn children.
Working with 4,000 mothers, the team looked at how much alcohol they drank during their pregnancy and also scored the IQ of their children. Though the impact is considered to be small, it warrants women not drinking at all, the report noted.
"Even at levels of alcohol consumption which are normally considered to be harmless, we can detect differences in childhood IQ which are dependent on the ability of the foetus to clear this alcohol," stated lead author Sarah Lewis, who works at Bristol University.
"This is evidence that even at these moderate levels, alcohol is influencing foetal brain development."
David Nutt, a professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College in London, commented that even though the effects on IQ are not massively detrimental, alcohol should be avoided because "it is a known toxin".
Some women have responded with frustration at the latest news concerning alcohol consumption during pregnancy, saying that there is a lot of conflicting reports out there.
Speaking to Sky News, Toni Denholme, a 26-year-old mother from Newcastle, stated that she had received mixed messages about drinking while she was pregnant.
Meanwhile, Gwen Jones, who is expecting her first child in April told the broadcaster: "There's so much ambiguous advice out there, what you can do what you can't do, what you should and shouldn't do, so something that comes out medically and says 'definitely do not do it, it's going to harm your child', I think is brilliant."
Dr Ron Gray, the paper's co-author, who works at Oxford University, said that it is up to individual women to decide whether or not they drink during pregnancy. He did add however, that if he were asked what his recommendation would be, he would say avoid it: "Why take the risk?"
This runs in line with the government's official stand on the matter. The UK's chief medical officer's advice for both women trying to conceive and those that are pregnant is not to drink altogether.
However, those that do choose to drink, should drink no more than one to two units "once or twice a week and should not get drunk". This will minimise the risk of harm to an unborn baby.
Meanwhile, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence advises that women in the first three months of their pregnancy should not drink at all, as it increases the chances of them experiencing a miscarriage.
For those that are unsure about units, one equates to half a pint of lager or a single measure of spirits. A 275ml glass of wine is equivalent to 2.3 units.
Posted by Jeanette Royston
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