Large number of women in Ireland continue to drink during pregnancy

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A new study has found that a large number of women in Ireland continue to drink alcohol while pregnant.

In addition, researchers found that ‘moderate’ alcohol consumption was associated with women of Irish nationality, who are employed, who smoke and have private health insurance. These women drank between six and 20 units per week.

Researchers questioned 61,241 women who attended the Coombe Women’s Hospital in Dublin between 2000 and 2007 to investigate how much alcohol the women consumed during pregnancy and what, if any, effects this had on the babies born.

Pregnant women

According to the alcohol and pregnancy study, published recently in the journal BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, many women continue to consume alcohol in pregnancy “despite an increasing body of evidence suggesting harm to the foetus”.

Some 71% of women who took part in the study claimed to be occasional drinkers who consumed up to five units of alcohol per week.

What’s more, this figure is likely to be an underestimation, according to the researchers, as the data on alcohol consumption relied on self-reporting by pregnant women, and as such is probably “under-reported”.

According to the researchers, the advice offered to women on drinking during pregnancy can be confusing.

They noted that the advice from the Department of Health is that alcohol should be avoided during pregnancy. This is similar to the advice of the surgeon general in the US and the chief medical officer of the UK.

However, in 2008, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) in the UK said that if women choose to drink alcohol during pregnancy ‘they should be advised to drink no more than one to two units once or twice a week. Although there is uncertainty regarding a safe level of alcohol consumption in pregnancy, at this low level there is no evidence of harm to the unborn baby’.

“This conflicting information is likely to be confusing for women who may wish to continue ‘social’ drinking in pregnancy,” the researchers said.

To read the results of the study, click here