The British Medical Association (BMA) is stressing that pregnant women should never drink alcohol, at its annual conference this week.

While some believe that pregnant women are allowed a limited amount of alcohol, the BMA strictly advises expecting mothers should never drink alcohol at all, because of the negative effects this will have on their babies.

"Exposure to alcohol before birth is one of the most significant causes of childhood brain damage, learning disability, poor behavior and even criminality, affecting up to one in every 100 infants,"says BMA President Elect, Sir Al Aynsley-Green.

Aynsley-Green assures this can be prevented as long as expectant mothers avoid drinking during pregnancy. However in the UK and England, advice to pregnant women are, as Aynsley-Green puts it, inconsistent, contradictory and confusing. He also stresses the inadequacy of services to support diagnosis and management of affected children.

Some guidelines allow pregnant women to drink "at some point" during pregnancy, and some do not. Doctors will emphasize that advice should be stricter and more firm, and that the message should be to never drink alcohol at all during pregnancy. This issue will be a topic of debate at the conference.

Doctors in the union's Manchester and Salford division proposed the motion and are asking the Government to issue 'consistent, unequivocal advice to women to avoid alcohol during pregnancy'.

The BMA believes there has been political denial of the scale and importance of the problem, urging political and professional leadership from government, the alcohol industry, Medical Royal Colleges and support agencies to work alongside women, families and affected adults and children to address the challenges.

""The varying and unreliable guidance on how much alcohol women can safely drink during pregnancy is incredibly confusing, and we must ensure that women receive clear and consistent messages about the risks of alcohol during pregnancy,: says BMA Board of Science Chair Professor Sheila Hollins.

British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPA) director of external affairs Clare Murphy, however believes otherwise, saying that the risks of mothers harming their babies by drinking during pregnancy is exaggerated.

Murphy adds that while some women would have had episodes of binge drinking prior to finding out they were pregnant, it is unlikely that their babies are harmed.

Still, Prof. Aynsley-Green says it has to be concluded that there is no 'safe' limit for alcohol consumption during pregnancy."

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