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Binge drinking mums don't harm foetus

By Emma Wilkinson

There is little ‘convincing' evidence that binge drinking during pregnancy seriously harm the foetus, say UK researchers.

A systematic review of the effects of binge drinking in the absence of regular heavy alcohol consumption found no evidence of miscarriage, still-birth, abnormal birthweight or birth defects.

The findings will help GPs reassure women who drank before they knew they were pregnant, said study leader Dr Ron Gray.

European studies have sug-gested half of women report at least one binge drinking session between their last menstrual period and recognition of pregnancy.

However, Dr Gray warned there was some suggestion of a small effect on neurodevelopment and more research needed to be done as in general the evidence was scant.

‘If it's an isolated episode, I think we can say to the woman that the risk is minimal and avoid unnecessary anxiety, but we're still saying avoid drinking during pregnancy,' said Dr Gray, senior clinical research fellow in the National Perina-tal Epidemiology Unit, at the University of Oxford.

‘We need to look at women who otherwise aren't drinking heavily but have these binges and look at the timing of the episodes in pregnancy to see if there's any harm."

Dr Sarah Jarvis, a GP in west London and RCGP spokesperson on women's health said it was incredibly common for women to ask if they had done any damage by drinking before they knew they were pregnant.

‘A lot have not been planning the pregnancy or have been trying for six or eight months and then get lax.

‘This is very reassuring – it's great to have a good study because women worry a lot, especially with all the conflicting advice we've had recently.'

A total of 14 studies were analysed for the review published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, and binge drinking was classed as downing five or more alcoholic drinks in one go, equivalent to 7.5 units.

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