London: Mothers who are consumed by anxiety and guilt for having drunk the odd glass of wine when they are pregnant should be reassured by a new study showing there is very little evidence that it harms the baby, say experts.
According to a report appeared in the Guardian, drinking in pregnancy is a fraught issue and causes much anxiety.
Last year new guidance to the NHS in England urged women to try not to drink at all, but in the real world, say the new study’s authors, up to 80% in the UK, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia drink some alcohol while they are pregnant.
Since half of all pregnancies are unplanned, many women drink before the test shows positive.
Although there is strong evidence that excessive drinking harms babies in the womb, the study from researchers at the University of Bristol found that few good studies had been done on light drinking, which they defined as no more than two small drinks, or four units per week.
“Despite the distinction between light drinking and abstinence being the point of most tension and confusion for health professionals and pregnant women and contributing to inconsistent guidance and advice now and in the past, our extensive review shows that this specific question is not being researched thoroughly enough, if at all,” they write in the BMJ Open journal.
Without the evidence, it is impossible to say whether drinking small amounts is safe or not, they say. “Formulating guidance on the basis of the current evidence is challenging,” they say.
They agree that drinking no alcohol in pregnancy is the safest option, but women should be told that little research has been done on light drinking, although they should also be informed that “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” they write.