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Binge-drink pregnancy risk "small"

There is little evidence that women who binge-drink while they are pregnant do any serious harm their babies' development, a new study suggests.

The research, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, shows that an expectant mother who binge-drinks, rather than consistently drinks heavily, has only a "minimal" risk of damaging her baby.

Regular heavy alcohol consumption while pregnant has been linked to an increase in birth defects, but until now, the effect of binge-drinking has not fully been explored.

Scientists Jane Henderson and Ron Gray, from the University of Oxford, and Ulrik Kesmodel, from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, carried out the study.

They considered more than 3,500 articles before focusing on 14 "good quality" pieces of relevant research from a period of 35 years.

Binge-drinking was defined as consuming five or more alcoholic drinks in one session - the equivalent to 60g of alcohol, or 7.5 units.

The results indicate there is "little substantive evidence" that binge-drinking causes a range of problems including miscarriage, still birth and abnormal birthweight or birth defects such as fetal alcohol syndrome.

The authors said: "When pregnant women report isolated episodes of binge-drinking in the absence of a consistently high daily alcohol intake, as is often the case, it is important to avoid inducing unnecessary anxiety, as, at present, the evidence of risk seems minimal."

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Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health

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