Charity warns women of the dangers of drinking while pregnant

There is no “safe” amount of alcohol for women to drink during pregnancy, a charity has warned.

From the Irish Mirror

Experts have differed over the years with some suggesting very moderate boozing does no harm to unborn babies.

But Catherine Keane, Policy and Advocacy Officer with Alcohol Action Ireland, said: “We know that a large amount of Irish women continue to drink alcohol during pregnancy and part of this is undoubtedly due to the fact that pregnant women can often receive conflicting advice.

“This confusion is due, in some part, to the fact that the exact level of alcohol at which harm starts to be caused to the unborn child has not been clearly established.

“This lack of clarity is another good reason to avoid alcohol completely, because as there is no known ’safe’ level of alcohol during pregnancy, then the safest thing to do is not drink at all.”

The charity’s call comes as the country’s three largest maternity hospitals, the National Maternity Hospital, the Rotunda Hospital and the Coombe Women & Infants University Hospital have joined with Alcohol Action Ireland to warn of the dangers of drinking during pregnancy.

The dangers for mums-to-be are outlined in a new information leaflet and on alcoholireland. ie.

Mary Brosnan, Director of Midwifery and Nursing at the National Maternity Hospital, warned that drinking alcohol while pregnant risks children developing Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

She said: “Children born with FAS are those who have been exposed to high levels of alcohol throughout the pregnancy and can experience problems with their growth, facial defects, as well as life-long learning and behavioural problems.

“FASD refers to the wide range of less obvious, and more common, effects of drinking alcohol during pregnancy. Although children with FASD can look healthy and normal, they can have issues such as sight and hearing difficulties, problems paying attention and following simple directions, as well as other learning difficulties.”

Ms Keane backed up these claims, saying that there are “no benefits” to drinking while pregnant, “just risks”.

She said: “Although alcohol is advertised and marketed through the use of risk-free, positive messages and is sold as if it were just another grocery, it is important to remember that it is a toxic substance.”

The new initiative has been welcomed by Fine Gael TD Catherine Byrne, who said it “puts paid to the myth that has arisen in recent times suggesting a few glasses of wine will do no harm”.

She added: “In the absence of clarity, it is really preferable for women to avoid alcohol entirely during pregnancy.”