The Illawarra’s first Professor of Paediatrics and Child Health Research is urging expectant women to take a pregnant pause from alcohol.
A landmark case under way in Britain has again put the focus on drinking during pregnancy, but Prof Ian Wright said the safest option was to abstain completely.
‘‘There’s been a lot of research into alcohol use in pregnancy and breastfeeding, and it has not been able to show a safe level of alcohol use, so the recommendation from the Australian Health and Medical Research Council is to abstain,’’ he said.
‘‘Because what we do know is the more alcohol consumed – particularly in the early stages of pregnancy – the more likely it is to cause a problem.’’
Prof Wright said foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) was one of a range of conditions that could result from alcohol in pregnancy.
‘‘This is where the baby is affected in its growth both before and after birth and may have developmental problems and abnormalities such as heart abnormalities.’’
Prof Wright said the syndrome may be detected before birth, upon delivery or may become clear over time due to a child’s poor growth and development.
In the UK case, lawyers for a six-year-old child with FAS are arguing the child is a victim of crime and should receive compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority.
The mother is alleged to have drunk heavily during pregnancy and the court must agree her actions were criminal for compensation to be awarded.
However, Prof Wright did not believe that criminalising women who drank during pregnancy was the answer here.
Instead, he believed a multi-disciplinary approach was required to address the very real problem of alcohol use during pregnancy.
‘‘In this region, for instance, there are a range of programs in place to help support women with detoxification and with the social issues underlying their alcohol use,’’ he said.