Middle class wine drinkers ‘harming their unborn children
Middle class women who regularly drink a bottle of wine at home with their partner are at ‘high risk’ of having a child with developmental problems, researchers said.
In some cases women may damage their unborn child before they even realise they are pregnant, doctors said at a conference.
Drinking during pregnancy can cause foetal alcohol syndrome, which can range from mild behaviour problems, to facial distortion, growth retardation and low IQ.
It is thought around one in 100 children in Britain suffer with some form of the condition and cases may be rising as women are drinking more.
Inconsistent messages about what is safe to drink during pregnancy has not helped the situation as some women use this as a reason to continue drinking, believing that scientists cannot agree, it was warned.
Dr Raja Mukherjee, consultant psychiatrist and expert in foetal alcohol syndrome, said the science is not clear if there is a safe level to drink that will not harm the baby so the only guarantee is not to drink at all.
“That doesn’t mean all women who have the odd drink are harming their baby.”
He said: “In the past men would have gone out and drunk beer and women would drink very little but now people are bringing home a bottle of wine and drinking it between them at home. If they finish the wine that is ten or 11 units between them which is close to a binge for a woman.
“If they do that two or three times a week, these women are in the high risk group. They are actually putting their babies at risk before they even know they are pregnant, in some cases.”
Dr Mukherjee was speaking at the National Organisation for Foetal Alcohol Syndrome conference in London.
He said one of the most severely affected children he has seen was born after a wealthy woman whose children had grown up began going out more and binge drinking. At first she thought she was going through the menopause and only discovered she was pregnant at five and a half months when she had been drinking throughout.
Susan Fleischer, executive director, said: “This is a condition that not only affect those whose mothers drank heavily during pregnancy, there is growing evidence of an effect at even low levels.
“Women should not binge drink for their own health but also for the health of their child. Most women stop drinking or cut down when they know they are pregnancy but for some, the damage may already have been done.”
Department of Health advice is that women should not drink at all when trying to conceive or when pregnant. If women chose to drink they should not have more than one or two units once or twice a week and not drink enough to feel drunk.