Alcohol consumption during pregnancy down

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There has been a “marked reduction” in alcohol consumption among pregnant women, according to new research.

From the Irish Examiner

However, health experts are concerned at the high levels of drinking, including binge-drinking, among Irish women in the year prior to being confirmed pregnant.

Researchers said the time of “greatest vulnerability” to alcohol for a foetus is the period before conception and the early stages of pregnancy.

They said health promotion should now focus on this issue, particularly given that up to half of all pregnancies are unplanned.

The research, ’Alcohol Consumption in Pregnancy: Results from the general practice setting’, was conducted by a team of medical experts attached to the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland.

The report said there had been little research on alcohol in pregnancy in primary care settings ”” such as in GP clinics ”” as almost all research to date had been carried out in secondary care, in maternity hospitals.

The research, published in the Irish Journal of Medical Science, was conducted among 240 women attending antenatal visits in 15 teaching GP practices in the greater Dublin area. It found:

* 97% of women drank no more than once a week;

* 62% of these said they did not drink at all;

* 10% drank two to four times a month;

* 2.5% drank two to three times a week or more.

“There was a marked reduction in the prevalence of alcohol use in pregnancy compared to previous research,” said the report.

“Over 97% drink no more than once a week, including almost two thirds of women who abstain totally from alcohol in pregnancy.”

The report, made available by the Health Research Board, said previous research indicated low abstinence rates in pregnancy.

One major piece of research, based on data of 120,000 women attending Coombe Women’s Hospital in Dublin between 1987 and 2005, showed that only 28% abstained.

“Women in this study have reduced alcohol usage promptly on finding out they were pregnant, indicating an awareness of the public health message regarding alcohol use in pregnancy,” said the report.

However, the researchers were concerned at the high levels of drinking, including binge-drinking, in the year prior to becoming pregnant, and said this was a particular issue for Irish women, rather than women from abroad.

It said Irish women had “significantly higher rates of binge-drinking” than women from other countries.

The report said: “The time of greatest vulnerability to alcohol for the foetus is periconceptionally [pre-pregnancy up to confirmation of pregnancy] and in the first trimester, and it is around this issue that health promotion should focus ”” particularly as up to half of pregnancies are unplanned.”

It called for the proposed mandatory labelling of alcohol regarding the foetal risks of drinking to highlight the periconceptional period.

Many women said to researchers that they received conflicting and confusing advice on how much alcohol is safe in pregnancy.