Policies on alcohol intake during pregnancy have no effect


While the dangers of drinking alcohol while pregnant are clear, putting them into policy doesn’t seem to have a discernable effect on child health. — AFP

Doctors have long warned women against drinking alcohol while pregnant.

“There is no known safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy,” according to one piece of advice.

Abstaining until after giving birth gives a baby a “better chance of healthy brain growth and development,” says another.

In some countries, such counsel has been incorporated into health policies.

But while the medical advice against prenatal drinking is solid, making related rules and advisories does not appear to reduce infant illness or injury, new research suggests.

Using an American database of private insurance claims, researchers from the University of California and Penn State College of Medicine in the United States found that “most pregnancy-specific alcohol policies were not associated with decreased odds of infant injuries or morbidities”.

The team analysed the claims, which took in over 1.4 million births, against nine “state-level pregnancy-specific” measures listed on the US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s Alcohol Policy Information System.

This includes measures such as public health warnings about drinking during pregnancy and prioritising medical treatment of pregnant women with a history of alcohol abuse.

The researchers noted that while earlier work on the matter found “associations of pregnancy-specific alcohol policies with increased low birth weight and preterm birth”, at the same time “associations with other infant outcomes” had remained unknown.

The team, whose work was funded by the US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and was published by the American Medical Association’s JAMA journal, concluded that “policymakers should not assume that pregnancy-specific alcohol policies improve infant health”.

They added that studies of the effect of pregnancy-related narcotics policies pointed to similar conclusions. – dpa

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Pregnancy , child health , alcohol abuse


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