Pregnant women should avoid alcohol in first three months

Women should not drink any alcohol during pregnancy, NHS adviser the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has said.

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It says if pregnant women must drink, they should not do so in the first three months and should limit consumption to one or two units once or twice a week afterwards.

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It brings NICE in line with government advice and replaces previous guidance saying small daily amounts were fine.

However, NICE concedes there is no evidence to support the change.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said there was no evidence that a couple of units once or twice a week would do any harm to the baby – but could not categorically rule out any risk.

NICE, which is responsible for the promotion of good health in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, decided to tighten its guidance partly because of concern that people are now drinking more than in the past.

Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, Chief Medical Officer for England, welcomed the new guidance from NICE, stressing that it was particularly important not to drink at the beginning of pregnancy, when the risk of miscarriage was highest.

Drinking heavily in pregnancy can cause foetal alcohol syndrome, which can leave children with features like small heads, widely spaced eyes and behavioural or learning problems.

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The Department of Health in England revised its guidance last year, calling for no drinking while pregnant or while trying to get pregnant.

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