Alcohol Linked to Premature Birth – Even Before Conception

Experts say drinks in early pregnancy can double the risk of premature birth

Experts say just three drinks in early pregnancy can double the risk


A study carried out by Leeds University found that abstinence is the only way to safeguard healthy growth. The researchers claim the only safe level of drinking in pregnancy – and when planning to have a baby – is none at all.

The study also concludes that even drinking in the month before conception could affect the baby’s size.

The researchers claim that even the maximum limit advised by doctors is too much for expectant mothers.  

In the study led by Professor Janet Cade, 1,264 women at low risk of birth complications in Leeds completed food frequency questionnaires before and during pregnancy.

They were asked questions such as how often they drank alcohol, what type it was, and at what point: in the four weeks before conception; and in each of the subsequent three months, or trimesters, throughout the pregnancy.

Researcher Camilla Nykjaer, of the university’s nutritional epidemiology group, said: “Our findings suggest that women should be advised to abstain from alcohol when planning to conceive and throughout pregnancy.” 

The researchers warn that middle class mothers are most at risk. They say middle class mothers habitually drink more at a time when the growing baby is most likely to come to harm from alcohol.

The issue of how much is safe to drink during pregnancy has caused controversy in recent years. Different experts have given different guidelines, leading to confusion.

The Department of Health recommends that women who are pregnant or trying to conceive should not drink alcohol but if they do drink it should never be more than 1-2 units a week.

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