No amount of alcohol is safe for a baby at any stage of pregnancy, the Health Service Executive has warned.
Alcohol passes from the mother’s blood into the baby’s blood via the placenta and can damage a baby’s developing brain and body, the HSE points out in a new information campaign on the issue.
The only way to have “zero risk” is to have “zero alcohol” in pregnancy, the campaign advises women.
Ireland is estimated to have the third highest rate of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, which can lead to hyperactivity and developmental difficulties in babies, according to a 2017 study. Meanwhile, heavy drinking during pregnancy can cause fetal alcohol syndrome, leading to brain damage, heart problems and low weight among babies.
“Pregnant women receive conflicting advice about drinking during pregnancy, and are often assured by family and friends that an occasional drink won’t do any harm,” said Dr Mary T O’Mahony, specialist in public health medicine with the HSE. “But the fact is that there is no proven level of safe drinking during pregnancy.”
Recent research by the HSE found one in two people claimed they were aware of illnesses and conditions that affect babies after birth as a result of exposure to alcohol during pregnancy. Only one in 10 said they had a good understanding of FASD (fetal alcohol spectrum disorder), its symptoms and its cause.