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Pregnancy and Alcohol - a Dangerous Cocktail Warns BMA Scotland

Heavy drinking by pregnant women can cause disorders in their children, says the BMA. These include learning and physical disabilities and behavioural problems which are part of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders [FASD] and can drastically impact on the lives of the individual and those around them. A new BMA report says the reality is that these conditions are completely preventable by not drinking any alcohol during pregnancy.

The report, Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders1, highlights how difficult it can be to detect FASD and how healthcare professionals need more guidance to help them diagnose and treat children suffering from the disorder.

The Chief Medical Officer in Scotland has, for some time, recommended that women avoid alcohol during pregnancy. England recently revised its guidance and now advises the same but if they do choose to drink, to minimise the risk to the baby, they should not consume more than one to two units of alcohol once or twice a week.

The BMA report says current guidance regarding drinking during pregnancy can be misinterpreted, as individuals may not clearly understand how many units correspond to what they are drinking. The alcoholic strengths of different beers and wines, and the considerable variation of standard measures used in bars and restaurants and in the home, can make it difficult for women to tell how many units they are consuming.

The report states that evidence is continuing to emerge on the effects of low or moderate prenatal alcohol exposure and until there is clarification the only message is that it is not safe to drink any alcohol during pregnancy or when planning a pregnancy. The BMA is now calling for clear, evidence-based guidelines on alcohol consumption during pregnancy and for women who are planning a pregnancy.

According To Dr Andrew Thomson, a Scottish member of the BMAs Board of Science, said today: Scotland has one of the highest levels of
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