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Alcohol – One Drink Your Baby Doesn’t Need

MAY 4 2006

Alcohol – One Drink Your Baby Doesn’t Need

The Alcohol Advisory Council (ALAC) has welcomed new guidelines from the Ministry of Health recommending a zero alcohol intake for pregnant women.

“For some years now ALAC has warned women planning to get pregnant and those that are pregnant to stop all alcohol consumption – not simply moderate consumption,” says ALAC Chief Executive Officer Dr Mike MacAvoy.

“Alcohol is known to be one of the main causes of brain damage in the unborn baby and we welcome the stronger stance taken in the new guidelines.”

Previous guidelines said alcohol was not recommended during pregnancy while the new guidelines recommend total abstinence from alcohol by pregnant women or those planning to get pregnant.

“I am pleased there is now a clear recommendation to all medical practitioners and hopeful that the sometimes conflicting advice given to women in the past will now be eliminated,” Dr MacAvoy said.

“Previously some health professionals have said one or two drinks a day is okay – and there is no evidence to endorse this - and some women have used that advice to validate drinking a large amount of alcohol.

“The new guidelines clearly tell pregnant women and medical professionals that total abstinence during pregnancy is the only option.”

In a 177-page technical paper released yesterday, the Ministry said babies born to mothers who had as little as one drink a week during pregnancy could show altered behaviours, and those whose mothers had one alcoholic drink a day may have reduced cognitive skills.

While it was well-known that babies from women who drank heavily at critical periods of fetal development could suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome, with facial deformities and retarded growth and brain development, it was now recognised there was a wide set of effects from lower-level alcohol use.

Babies exposed to any alcohol while in the womb could suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity, an inability to foresee consequences or to learn from previous experience, lack of organisation, learning difficulties, poor abstract thinking, adaptability, impulse control, judgment, speech and other communication problems.

Currently ALAC has made an application to Food Standards Australia for mandatory labeling of all alcoholic beverage containers advising women of the potential danger of consuming alcohol while either planning a pregnancy of during pregnant.


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