The Alcohol Advisory Council (Alac) is warning pregnant women, and those planning to be, to avoid all alcohol. Alac deputy chief executive Sandra Kirby said alcohol was one
drink the developing fetus did not need.
"Drinking at any time during pregnancy may affect the
normal development of the baby. If you are pregnant,
planning to become pregnant, or in a situation where
you could become pregnant, don't drink alcohol," she said.
"Drinking alcohol during pregnancy exposes the unborn
child to the risk of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) which can result in a variety of disorders, ranging from
central nervous problems, low birth weight, abnormal
facial features, mental retardation and behavioural and
learning problems throughout their life."
Ms Kirby said recent research commissioned by Alac showed that many women still believed a small amount
of alcohol would not hurt the fetus. The research found only 40 per cent believed women should abstain altogether
from drinking during pregnancy. Half of the women surveyed said one drink or less was safe.
"Many women believe one or two drinks occasionally couldn't
possibly hurt the unborn baby but in fact there is no known
safe level of consumption of alcohol for pregnant women.
Unfortunately, medical advice on drinking during pregnancy is variable."
Increasing numbers of young women binge-drank, which
increased the risk of more FASD-affected children, she said.
Alac welcomed the recent Ministry of Health guidelines on
alcohol and pregnancy. Previous guidelines said alcohol was
not recommended during pregnancy.
The new guidelines recommended total abstinence from
alcohol by pregnant women or those planning a pregnancy.
"I am pleased there is now a clear recommendation to all
medical practitioners and hopeful that the sometimes
conflicting advice given to women will stop," Ms Kirby said.
Alac is also preparing an application for labelling of alcohol
beverages with a health advisory notice advising of the
dangers of drinking while pregnant.
However, without support from the medical profession it is unlikely that labels would achieve a behaviour change in women, she said.