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Pregnant women can drink one glass of wine a day

Published:  23 July, 2008

UK: Pregnant women are safe to drink a glass of wine a day, a health watchdog has suggested, contradicting the Government's own official advice.

In May, the Department of Health (DoH) advised pregnant women and those trying to conceive to cut out alcohol altogether, rather than limit it.

The Government is working with the drinks industry to display the warning on wine labels, in line with other European member states.

But now, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has produced draft guidance stating that pregnant women can consume up to 1.5 units of alcohol a day after the first three months of pregnancy.

"There was "no consistent evidence" to show a small amount of alcohol damaged unborn children, NICE said. The guidelines are out for consolation and are due to be published in March 2008.

A NICE spokesman added: "The experts developing this guideline have carried out a systematic review of all the evidence available on the risks of drinking alcohol in pregnancy.

"The recommendations in the draft guidelines are based on this evidence. The experts have concluded that there is no consistent evidence of adverse effects from low to moderate alcohol during pregnancy (fewer than 1.5 units per day), but the evidence is probably not strong enough to rule out any risk."

The risks of birth defects, miscarriage and behavioural problems among children of drinking mothers were considered.

But the experts concluded women should avoid alcohol only during the first trimester, but said drinking led to slightly higher risk of miscarriage.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said the "safest option" was for pregnant women to abstain from drinking.