Drinking ups premature birth risk

Drinking ups premature birth risk

In the UK, the Department of Health recommends pregnant women and those trying to conceive not to drink alcohol at all and no more than one-two units a week. Middle class women were most likely to drink more than this, a study has found.


A path breaking legal case is underway in England and will be soon heard in the Court of Appeal on drinking while pregnant - and whether doing so to excess should be considered a crime. A council is set to argue that a child who was born with serious health defects as a result of her mother's drinking habits should be given a compensation payout for being the victim of a crime. 

The case was given permission by the upper tribunal of the Administrative Appeals Chamber recently to be heard in the Court of Appeal. The child was diagnosed with foetal alcohol syndrome at birth. She is now six and living with foster parents. 

Drinking during the first three months of pregnancy was most strongly linked to negative outcomes for the baby. Women who drink more than the recommended two weekly units are twice likely to give birth to an unexpectedly small or premature baby than women who abstain completely. But even women who don't exceed the maximum recommended alcohol intake during this period are still at increased risk of a premature birth, even after taking account of other influential factors.


Drinking during the period leading up to conception is also linked to a higher risk of restricted fetal growth, indicating that this may also be a critical period, suggests the study. "Our results highlight the need for endorsing the abstinence-only message, and further illuminate how timing of exposure is important in the association of alcohol with birth outcomes, with the first trimester being the most vulnerable period," it said.


Researchers bases their findings on responses to food frequency questionnaires by 1,264 women at low risk of birth complications in Leeds. The women were part of the Caffeine and Reproductive Health study, looking into links between diet and birth outcomes. The mums to be were asked how often they drank alcohol, and what type it was, at four time points: in the four weeks before conception; and in each of the subsequent three months (trimesters) throughout the pregnancy.


Alcohol consumption was significantly higher before conception and in the first three months of pregnancy than in the subsequent two trimesters, averaging 11, 4, and just under two units a week. Over half (53%) of the women drank more than the recommended maximum two weekly units during the first trimester. And almost four out of 10 said they drank more than 10 units a week in the period leading up to conception. Those who drank more than two units a week were more likely to be older, educated to degree level, of white ethnicity, and more likely to live in affluent areas. Some 13% of the babies born were underweight, and 4.4% were smaller than would be expected; a similar proportion (4.3%) was born prematurely.


By Kounteya Sinha,TNN 


BBC News, Wednesday 12th of March 2014.


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