Latest ‘Guidance’ on Alcohol for Mums-to-Be

Pregnancy can be a confusing period, and constant changes in advice and guidance don’t help at all. Mind you, at least the latest guidelines on drinking in pregnancy should offer some clarity during the first three months – at least for now. Gone is the airy-fairy advice that it’s safe to drink a couple of units a couple of times a week. It’s been replaced by updated Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) guidance to steer clear of booze during the first trimester.

The latest advice says that small amounts of booze after the first three months do not seem to cause any harm, but the only sure-fire way of keeping youngsters safe is to steer clear of alcohol completely. There is still the door left open for moderate drinking, though, with the RCOG’s chair of the patient information committee, Philippa Marsden, saying that women can drink lightly after the first trimester. So complete clarity has not been achieved, although it’s clear that there are currently no proven safe amounts that can be drunk during pregnancy, as well as no clear indications if any damage is caused at all by light alcohol consumption. The only real answer, then, seems to be to try to stay informed and then make a personal choice.


This can still be hard, however, given the constant changes in advice. In 2010, for example, a study by the department of epidemiology and public health at University College London seemed to offer reassurance to women who enjoyed the occasional drink during their pregnancy. On the other hand, pregnant women are bombarded with horror stories about the effects that booze can have on their unborn child. There seems no doubt that excessive alcohol consumption can have severe consequences for babies. There is a proven link between premature labour, foetal growth restrictions and still births. There is also the risk of severe disorders such as foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) and the even more serious foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), which can result in both mental and physical disabilities. It’s clear that you shouldn’t down a bottle of wine, but ow about a glass every now and again? Now that’s the question.

At least the latest RCOG guidance now chimes more coherently with the existing Nice antenatal guidelines. That’s at least one less case of conflicting advice to deal with, although it seems that common sense is still more valuable in making decisions than relying solely on supposed facts that will probably be ‘revised’ again before a woman’s baby has been born.