CONSUMING ALCOHOL at any point during pregnancy can lead to poor cognitive function and low birth weight, a new study has warned.
The findings reiterated the widely held belief that alcohol of any kind should be avoided by any women carrying children to term.
As part of the study, 23 different published studies on drinking during pregnancy were compared by scientists from the University of Bristol.
They identified a significant link between alcohol consumption and a reduction in cognitive function or “thinking skills”.
Babies born to mothers who drank were also found have been born with a lower birthweight, something linked to health problems in later life.
The findings were reached through the collation of results gleaned from a eclectic variety of previous studies.
These involved everything from standard randomised controlled trials, to alternative strategies such as comparing children in the same families whose mothers reduced or increased their alcohol use between pregnancies.
A study involving genetic markers was also factored into the findings as well as the results of previous observational tests.
Though the study failed to establish the level of alcohol consumption that would lead to brain damage but did advise women to abstain from alcohol altogether while pregnant.
Study lead Dr Luisa Zuccolo said: “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.
“This is unlikely to be a fluke result, as we took into account a variety of approaches and results.
“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.
“Our study reinforces the UK Chief Medical Officers' guideline: DRYMESTER is the only safe approach.
“This message is more important than ever, given recent research which shows the alcohol industry promoting confusing information about the real health implications of drinking during pregnancy.”
The paper was published as Evidence of detrimental effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on offspring birth weight and neurodevelopment from a systematic review of quasi experimental studies in the International Journal of Epidemiology.