Drinking once in awhile is always fine. However, enjoying that occasional “enjoyment” during pregnancy can put your baby at risk.
A new research conducted on 17, 244 pregnant women across the U.K, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand found that drinking in them is ordinary, varying from 20 percent to 80 percent.
Photo Credit: Andrew Vargas
The research was based upon the collected data from three studies: the Growing up in Ireland (GUI) study, the Screening for Pregnancy Endpoints (SCOPE) study, and the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS).
The researchers investigated the type and quantity of alcohol intake before and during pregnancy among the women to determine the frequency of and the factors, related to drinking while pregnant.
They found that including binge drinking, alcohol consumption among expecting mothers varied from 20 percent to 80 percent in Ireland, and from 40 percent to 80 percent in the U.K, Australia and New Zealand.
As per the SCOPE study figures, Ireland came out to have the most number of drinkers both before and during pregnancy with 90 percent and 82 percent, respectively; women drinking. In case of binge drinking also, the country recorded the highest rates of drinking with 59 percent women drinking before pregnancy and 45 percent during.
However, the research team warned that the exact frequency could be far lower than the SCOPE study figures because the records from the PRAMS and GUI studies were significantly lower with 20 percent to 46 percent women drinking during pregnancy, and only 3 percent of women reported binge drinking.
The quantity of alcohol consumption differed across the three studies. They reported that between 15 to 70 percent of the women said that they drunk one to two units of alcohol a week during the first trimester of their pregnancy. However, the units significantly dropped as they moved to the second trimester, as did binge drinking.
Although drinking among women were prominent across all social strata many factors were connected to the elevated or lowered risk of drinking alcohol.
Women belonging to other ethnic groups drank less during their pregnancy as compared to white women while younger expectant moms, falling in the age group of 30 to 39 were also less probable to consume alcohol than older women.
Other factors that were connected to lower risk of drinking were higher level of education, the presence of other children, and being overweight or having obesity.
However, the most powerful and steady sign of elevated risk of alcohol intake that was found across the three studies was smoking. Among women who smoked, 17 percent to 50 percent were more probable to drink alcohol during pregnancy than others.
The researchers said that this “cross-cohort and cross-country comparison shows that gestational alcohol exposure may occur in over 75 % of pregnancies in the UK and Ireland.”
They added although most of the women who consumed alcohol did so in very low level across the three studies as the negative effects of low level drinking during pregnancy is not known, “the most sensible option is not to drink alcohol during pregnancy.”
They wrapped up the research, saying that as the effects of light drinking during pregnancy is unknown as against the effects of heavy drinking; it is indeed “a significant public health concern.”
The study titled “Prevalence and predictors of alcohol use during pregnancy: findings from international multicentre cohort studies” has been published in the journal BMJ Open.
In a report by NHS Choices, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) suggested that women should refrain themselves from drinking completely during the first trimester of pregnancy and not more than one or two units during the remaining two trimesters.
The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (RCOG) said that the best option for pregnant women is to stay away from alcohol completely during pregnancy.
The health experts have said when a pregnant woman drinks, the alcohol moves from her blood via the placenta to the baby. Liver which is known to handle the alcohol, takes the most time to develop in the fetus thereby, affecting it greatly because the baby’s liver is not an inch developed compared to the liver of its mother.
Alcohol consumption is most harmful during the first trimester because it can lead to miscarriage, preterm birth or low birth weight. On the other hand, drinking throughout the pregnancy can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) that produces babies who have stunted growth, facial abnormalities and learning and behavioral disorders.