A new study by the University of Bristol has found that occasional drinking during pregnancy may lead to poor cognitive function and lower birth weight.
The study, being a comprehensive review of health data and genetics, suggests that even a little bit of alcohol at any stage of pregnancy is harmful to the baby.
The leader of the research, Dr Luisa Zuccolo, said: “The body of evidence for the harm that alcohol can do to children before they are born is growing, and our review is the first look at the full range of studies on the issue. This is unlikely to be a fluke result, as we took into account a variety of approaches and results.”
Medical officers in the UK currently recommend going completely sober but acknowledge that this is merely precautionary, rather than based on evidence.
Because of this, many pregnant women drink occasionally, believing it to be safe.
It is currently beleived that 1 in 4 British women drink during pregnancy.
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Although researchers cannot say when exactly harm to the baby begins, scientists at the University of Bristol say that the study ‘tips the balance towards a more solid evidence base’ that even a small amount of alcohol causes harm.
Researchers believe that in particular, alcohol during pregnancy can cause neurodevelopmental and behavioural problems to the child.
The study might be considered groundbreaking due to the previous difficulty researchers have found in distinguishing whether it was alcohol or other factors that cause development problems in a child’s early years.
Other factors to consider are a woman’s genetic makeup, education or family enviornment, as all of these can effect a child’s development and cognition.
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