Why women should avoid drinking during pregnancy
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can lead to low birth weight and poor cognitive function, according to a new research.
For the findings, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, researchers from the University of Bristol investigated the impact alcohol consumption during pregnancy can have on a child.
The research team assessed 23 published studies on drinking during pregnancy and found evidence that consuming alcohol could lead to lower birth weight and poorer cognitive functioning.
"The body of evidence for the harm that alcohol can do to children before they are born is growing, and our review is the first to look at the full range of studies on the issue," said study lead author Luisa Zuccolo from in the UK.
"Our work confirms the current scientific consensus: that consuming alcohol during pregnancy can affect one's child's cognitive abilities later in life, including their education. It might also lead to lower birth weight," Zuccolo added.
To study the effects of drinking alcohol during pregnancy, the researchers funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and the Medical Research Council (MRC) combined results from very different study designs for the first time.
Methods included traditional studies such as randomised controlled trials, alongside alternative strategies such as comparing children in the same families whose mothers cut down or increased their alcohol use between pregnancies, and a genetic marker-based approach, 'Mendelian randomisation'.
Previously, research on this topic has been through 'observational' studies, where participants are already exposed to a risk factor and researchers do not try to change who is or isn't exposed.
All the studies, included in the review, tried to compare with like groups of people, who were only different in terms of exposure to alcohol during pregnancy.
This is as close as it gets to what would be achieved in an experiment, the researchers said.
While the review was comprehensive it was limited in its ability to establish how much alcohol leads to these negative outcomes.
However, the researchers concluded that women should continue to be advised to abstain from alcohol during pregnancy.