No need to consider abortion over pre-pregnancy test binge, charity reassures women
Warnings that even one episode of binge drinking by a pregnant woman can cause lifelong damage to her baby are causing serious and unnecessary distress. The British Pregnancy Advisory Service(bpas)is now regularly seeing women so concerned they have harmed their baby before they knew they were pregnant they consider ending what would otherwise be a wanted pregnancy.
Most women reduce their alcohol intake when trying to conceive. However only half of pregnancies in this country are planned as contraception frequently lets women down, and it may be several weeks before a woman suspects she is pregnant. Some of these pregnancies will end in abortion but, after an initial shock, other women may decide to continue the pregnancy.
Alcohol is enjoyed by many women of reproductive age and occasional binges– consuming six or more units (3 glasses of wine) in one sitting- are a fact of life. Inevitably this means significant numbers of women will have drunk fairly heavily before finding out they were pregnant. Warnings that even small quantities of alcohol can lead to birth defects, facial deformities and learning difficulties can cause deep anxiety among this group of women, who are increasingly seeking advice from bpas about whether to continue or end the pregnancy.
Drinking heavily throughout pregnancy is associated with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), which causes developmental problems and deformities in the children of some alcoholic mothers. But research suggests the risk of physical or neurological damage to babies from isolated episodes of binge drinking by their mothers in early pregnancy is minimal A large-scale study of Danish women published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (BJOG) in 2012 also found no evidence that episodic binge drinking in early pregnancy impacted upon a child’s cognitive abilities at the age of 5.
It is recommended that women follow NICE guidance and if possible avoid drinking alcohol in the first 3 months of pregnancy as it may increase the risk of miscarriage, and if they want to drink for the remainder of their pregnancy to stick to 1-2 UK units (a glass of wine), once or twice a week.
Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said:
"bpas supports women’s reproductive choices and provides safe, legal abortion care to women with unwanted pregnancies. It concerns us greatly when women with wanted pregnancies are driven to consider abortion because they needlessly fear their behaviour has damaged their baby.
"Women should be reassured that the odd night of heavy drinking before they found out they were pregnant is extremely unlikely to have caused their baby harm. Pregnant women don’t need scare stories but impartial, evidence-based information, and they should be trusted to make the choices that are right for them."
For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 0207 061 3377/07788 725185
bpas is a charity which provides reproductive healthcare services including pregnancy counselling, abortion care, miscarriage management and contraception from more than 40 centres across the UK. It supports and advocates for reproductive choice.