Bradford study finds binge drinkers increased 'small baby' risk
Women who binge drink in the second three months of pregnancy are 68% more likely to have a small baby, research has shown.
Doctors studied the drinking habits of 11,000 mothers in Bradford between 2007 and 2011, as part of the Born in Bradford (BiB) project.
They found more than 40% drank alcohol while pregnant, and 333 women continued to binge drink.
But low or moderate levels of drinking did not increase the risk.
The effects of alcohol in pregnancy
- When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, the levels of alcohol in her baby's blood rise as high as her own
- When an unborn baby is constantly exposed to alcohol, a particular group of problems can develop, known as foetal alcohol syndrome
- The government advises pregnant women to avoid alcohol completely, although if they do choose to drink, it says not to have more than one to two units of alcohol once or twice a week.
- The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists says there is no evidence a couple of units once or twice a week will harm the baby. Binges, even if you do not do it regularly, are definitely to be avoided
Source: BBC Health
The researchers defined binge drinking as having at least five units of alcohol in a short space of time - about half a bottle of wine, or two pints of beer.
The government recommends that pregnant women should avoid alcohol altogether but if they do drink, to limit it to one to two units of alcohol no more than twice a week.'Significant risks'
Lead report author Dr Duncan Cooper said: "Growth-restricted babies have a greater risk of various neonatal complications including breathing problems, respiratory infections and hypothermia and impaired neurodevelopment.
"Our findings support government policy that while there is no risk from drinking small amounts of alcohol during pregnancy, women should not binge drink as there are significant risks and consequences for their unborn child."
The study found no relationship though between binge drinking and premature birth.
Professor John Wright, head of the BiB project, said: "Alcohol consumption during pregnancy is a contentious topic but this research demonstrates a clear link between binge drinking during pregnancy and having a small baby.
"There are various services locally in Bradford and across the country to help women cut down or stop drinking, or deal with alcohol dependency, but the best place for women to start discussing these issues is with their GP or midwife."
Born in Bradford began in 2007 and aims to look at every aspect of a child's development to try to get an idea of how factors like environment, education, diet, ethnicity and genes interact together to affect health.