Booze linked to higher risk of premature babies
Reported January 26, 2009
WOMEN who drink heavily in the first three months of pregnancy are more likely to have a premature baby, research suggests.
Experts found that women who were binge drinkers could also put their babies at risk even if they stopped drinking after the first three months.
The results raise fears about women who drink heavily in the first trimester without realising they are pregnant.
But the experts found no evidence that drinking in small quantities harmed the baby.
The Government has said women trying to conceive and those who are pregnant should avoid drinking altogether.
But if they do choose to drink, they should consume low levels no more than one or two units of alcohol once or twice a week, and women should not get drunk.
Experts say there is no proof that light drinking harms the baby while others believe the evidence is inconclusive.
The study, by researchers in Australia, found women who drink moderate or high amounts of alcohol in the first trimester are significantly more likely to deliver a pre-term infant than women who abstain from alcohol.
Moderate alcohol consumption was defined as between 60g and 70g of alcohol per week, while heavy drinking was defined as more than 68g per week.
One unit in the UK is the equivalent to 8g of alcohol. The number of units in a drink can vary according to the strength but one 125ml glass of wine is between 1.25 and 1.75 units.
Researchers from the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research at the University of Western Australia and the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford examined data for 4,719 women who gave birth in Australia between 1995 and 1997.
Mostly, the results were not statistically significant but the experts did find a correlation between binge drinking or drinking moderately to heavily in the first trimester and premature birth.