Pregnancy the fetus and lactation

Pregnancy is unlikely to occur in severely alcoholic women (who have amenorrhoea secondary to liver injury). The spontaneous miscarriage rate in the second trimester is doubled by consumption of 1-2 units/day.

Fetal injury can occur in early pregnancy (fetal alcohol syndrome). It may be due to the metabolite, acetaldehyde, and so acute (binge) consumption is more hazardous than similar total intake on a daily basis. The vulnerable period of pregnancy is at 4-10 weeks. Because of this, prevention cannot be reliably achieved after diagnosis of pregnancy (usually 3-8 weeks).

There is no level of maternal consumption that can be guaranteed safe for the fetus. But it is plainly unrealistic to leave the matter there, and it has been suggested that if the ideal of total abstinence is unachievable then women who are pregnant or are thinking of becoming pregnant should not drink more than 1-2 units of alcohol per week and should avoid periods of intoxication.34

In addition to the fetal alcohol syndrome there is general fetal/embryonic growth retardation (1% for

34 Report of an Inter-Departmental Working Group, 1995

Sensible Drinking. Department of Health.

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