Current medical advice regarding alcohol consumption for pregnant women is filled with mixed messages, according to a recent study in the United Kingdom. Experts therefore advise soon-to-be mothers to completely abstain from alcohol.

Various health groups have different perceptions regarding the matter. Some believe that it is OK to consume alcohol in minimal amounts, while some fully disregard the activity.

In a study published in the BMJ, researchers Mary Mather and Kate Wiles argue that the only ethical solution is complete abstinence from alcohol. Drinking alcohol can have harmful effects to the baby, and possibly even lead to miscarriage.

Researchers explained that infants can suffer from low birth weight, mental retardation, development and behavioral abnormalities and fetal alcohol syndrome. It is still unknown how and when fetal damage occurs but researchers believe that it varies according to each individual pregnancy.

UK's Health Department recommends a "safe" level of alcohol consumption for pregnant women, should they choose to drink. The recommended amount is not more than two small glasses of wine per week.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence warns women to stay away from alcohol in the first trimester of their pregnancy because of the probable risk of miscarriage.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also says that too much alcohol consumption can harm the baby inside the womb during the first trimester, but adds on their pamphlet that drinking safe amounts of alcohol after three months does not appear to be harmful.

Dr. Patrick O'Brien, a consultant and spokesperson from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said that women are intelligent enough to discern and be told that inconsistencies exist.

He believes that health officials should resolve the inconsistencies then present the evidence clearly.

"This is not to imply that we should conceal the fact that in some areas the evidence cannot provide a clear, unambiguous answer. We all deal with uncertainty in our lives on a daily basis; pregnant women are no less capable of doing so," explained O'Brien.

He fears that if complications ensue, pregnant women will lose their faith in their doctors.

Meanwhile, many countries including Australia, Canada, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway and Scotland are completely against alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

Experts hope that further research will clear up the mixed messages once and for all.

Photo: Jerry Lai | Flickr

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