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Binge Drinking In First Three Months Is Irreversible

Posted Jan 22 2009 5:16pm

New research released today has revealed that if women drink in the first three months of pregnancy, it is most likely they would not benefit from giving up at that point.

A study found that the effects of drinking while pregnant are most prevalent in the first trimester, and after that the damage has already been done and cannot be reversed.

Drinking a lot in the first three months could result in a premature baby, however stopping could also bring on pre-term birth. These risks do not go away even if the mother gives up drinking.

The new findings further add to the confusing information about the safe levels of drinking during pregnancy. In March 2007 the National Institute for Clinical Excellence recommended no alcohol in the first three months, with one to two drinks after that being acceptable. This was in contrast to advice from the Department of Health which advised no drinking at all.

The issue is widely conflicted, with some experts believing there is no evidence to show light drinking has an adverse effect. This new study was carried out by the University of Oxford and the University of Western Australia, which included 4,700 women in Western Australia who gave birth between 1995 and 1997.

Scientists discovered that women who were binge drinking in the first trimester increases their risk of a premature birth by twice as much - even if they did not drink for the remaining time.

Similarly, stopping drinking could cause a “metabolic or inflammatory response” - i.e. pre-term birth. For some women, it is not uncommon to be unaware of their pregnancy for the first few months, so for them it could be too late to reverse the damage they did not even know they were causing.

The results were published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and hammer home the importance to women who may be pregnant or who are trying to not drink at all. However, there still remains no proof that drinking lightly for the duration of pregnancy has any adverse effects.

Colleen O’Leary, who led the study, said,

“Our research shows pregnant women who drink more than one to two standard drinks per occasion and more than six standard drinks per week increase their risk of having a premature baby, even if they stop drinking before the second trimester. The highest risk is for women who drink heavily or at binge levels – seven standard drinks a week or five drinks per occasion.”

Professor Philip Steer, editor of the BJOG, advised women who drink light amounts should not worry but the results of binge drinking are “sobering”.

“The damage is already done in the first three months. You can’t ‘catch up’ by stopping drinking in the later months. But if you are a normal person who drinks sensibly at low levels, there’s no evidence it will harm the baby,” he said.

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