It is generally known and accepted that heavy drinking during pregnancy can have harmful effects on the development of the unborn child. What is less well understood, and is causing uncertainty amongst the public, is the impact of low-level alcohol use during pregnancy.
In a recent systematic review, written by Kayleigh Easey, a PhD student and member of the Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group (TARG), the effects of parental alcohol use and offspring mental health are discussed.
The research team found that:
- over half of the analyses included in the review reported an association between drinking in pregnancy and offspring mental health problems, specifically anxiety, depression, total problems and conduct disorder.
- there is a lack of consistency in the research when it comes to measuring drinking during pregnancy. This causes a challenge when trying to compare research studies and also causes reduced clarity within the area of study.
Currently, government guidelines advise women to abstain from drinking alcohol altogether through their pregnancy.
The researchers conclude that it is important for women to understand what the current evidence shows, to allow them to make informed decisions about drinking during pregnancy.