RCOG statement: Alcohol consumption and pregnancy – new BJOG research

A new paper published in BJOG today suggests that 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.

The Canadian researchers looked at 36 previous studies into alcohol consumption and birth outcomes.  In the paper, low to moderate alcohol consumption is considered on average as one alcoholic drink per day.

Patrick O’Brien, RCOG spokesperson said:

“This new research highlights the dangers of heavy drinking in pregnancy. Women should be careful about the amount of alcohol they consume when pregnant, especially in the first trimester.
“The RCOG advises that if a woman falls pregnant, she should abstain from alcohol.  However, if she would like to have a drink, the current evidence shows that one or two units, once or twice a week, is acceptable after 12 weeks of pregnancy.

“The findings from this study show that low-level drinking during pregnancy does not result in preterm birth and smaller babies.  This does not mean that women can use this as an excuse to indulge in more than the recommended amount in the UK.  The measure of a unit of alcohol in the UK is 8g or 10 ml.  Compared to this, one unit of alcohol in Canada is 13.6g. I would be very careful about saying that a unit of alcohol a day, based on the Canadian unit, is safe for pregnant women.

“We are concerned by women who are not aware that they may have a drink problem.  Pregnant women should therefore consult their midwives and GPs if they have any concerns about their alcohol intake.”

6 July 2011


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.

To view the BJOG paper please visit: http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1111/j.1471-0528.2011.03050.x  

To view the RCOG Statement No. 5: ‘Alcohol consumption and the outcomes of pregnancy’ (2006), please click here.

Date published: 06/07/2011
Published by: Naomi Weston


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