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Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 10°C
the risks

'No amount of alcohol at any stage of pregnancy is safe for your baby'

The HSE said there was a lot of misleading information and confusion around alcohol and pregnancy.

PROSPECTIVE MOTHERS ARE being warned against any sort of alcohol use during their pregnancy as the HSE launches a new campaign to dispel the myths between drinking and carrying a child.

To mark Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Awareness Day today, the HSE’s Alcohol Programme spoke with women who are pregnant and women actively considering becoming pregnant.

It said that the overriding message it heard from these women was that there is a lot of misleading information and confusion around alcohol and pregnancy.

Ireland is estimated to have the third highest rate of FASD in a study of the global prevalence of the disorder out of 187 countries. 

The HSE said that drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause a number of side effects including: 

  • hyperactivity and poor attention
  • learning difficulties and a lower IQ
  • difficulty controlling behaviour
  • difficulty getting along with other people
  • being smaller than expected
  • problems with eating and sleeping
  • emotional and mental health problems

A HSE spokeswoman said: “The fact is that no amount of alcohol at any stage of pregnancy is safe for your baby. Alcohol passes from the mother’s blood into the baby’s blood via the placenta and can damage a baby’s developing brain and body.

“Ireland is estimated to have the 3rd highest rate of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, including Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, in a global study of 187 countries. One of the best things you can do during pregnancy to keep yourself and your baby healthy is to avoid drinking alcohol. This new leaflet explains why.”

Dr Mary O’Mahony, Specialist in Public Health Medicine with the HSE, added: “Pregnant women receive conflicting advice about drinking during pregnancy, and are often assured by family and friends that an occasional drink won’t do any harm. But the fact is that there is no proven level of safe drinking during pregnancy. FASD causes life-long problems for babies.

“We do know that heavy or frequent drinking is more dangerous, and the more you drink, the greater the risk to your baby. But the only way to have zero risk, is to drink zero alcohol.”

Recent research by the HSE found that 1 in 2 people in Ireland claim they are aware of illnesses and conditions that affect babies after birth as a result of exposure to alcohol during pregnancy, however only just over 1 in 10 people state they have a good understanding of FASD, its symptoms and its cause.

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