Heavy alcohol consumption during pregnancy increases the risk of low birth weight, preterm birth and small size for gestational age (SGA) whilst light alcohol consumption may not affect these outcomes suggests new research published today in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
The Canadian researchers looked at 36 previous studies into alcohol consumption and birth outcomes. Low to moderate maternal alcohol consumption is considered on average as one alcoholic drink per day.
The meta-analysis found that compared to non-drinking mothers, alcohol consumption of less than 19 grams per day, or an average of about 1.5 drinks per day, was not associated with the risk of preterm birth. However, at an average of 3 drinks or 36 grams a day, the risk of having a preterm birth is 23% more likely than in non-drinking mothers.
In addition, the risk of low birth weight with alcohol consumption was not apparent until more than 10 grams per day or an average of one drink.
Moreover, compared to abstained mothers, maternal drinking up to 10 grams per day was not associated with the risk of SGA.
The paper also shows that there may be a cut off point of 10 to 18 grams of alcohol per day or 1 to 1.5 drinks where higher levels of alcohol may lead to adverse effects on the baby.
Dr Jayadeep Patra, Research Scientist, Social & Epidemiological Research, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Canada and co-author of the paper said:
“This paper indicates that heavy alcohol consumption during pregnancy increases the risks of all three outcomes while light to moderate alcohol consumption shows no effect.
“It is important that a healthy lifestyle is promoted to women during any contact with professionals in the antenatal period to emphasise the harmful effects alcohol consumption can have.”
Professor Philip Steer, BJOG editor-in-chief added:
“This new study builds on previous studies that have linked heavy drinking to adverse effects on the baby and should act as a deterrent to heavy or binge drinking during pregnancy.
“Further research should look at any links between low to moderate drinking and other adverse outcomes.”
For further information please contact Gerald Chan on 020 7772 6446 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To contact Dr Patra at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, please email Jayadeep_Patra@camh.net.
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Please include a link to the paper in online coverage:http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1111/j.1471-0528.2011.03050.x
Patra J, Bakker R, Irving H, Jaddoe V, Malini S, Rehm J. Dose–response relationship between alcohol consumption before and during pregnancy and the risks of low birthweight, preterm birth and small for gestational age (SGA)—a systematic review and meta-analyses. BJOG 2011; DOI: 10.1111/j.1471-0528.2011.03050.x.