There’s been quite a big study just reported in BMJ Open. Researchers in England, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand studied the drinking habits of 17,244 women who had given birth. Lo and behold, a third of women fessed up to binge drinking while pregnant. Things were a bit complicated by other factors, including the fact that smokers were more likely than non-smokers to have drunk ‘at least some alcohol’ while pregnant. Women were more likely to binge drink in the first trimester, and younger women were less likely to drink than older women. Interestingly, non-white women were less likely to drink while pregnant.

Anyway, the researchers claim this raises a significant public health concern. What they fail to do is quantify that risk. Then the British Pregnancy Advisory Council offered some sanity. They pointed out that by the second trimester many women aren’t drinking at all, and even those that do are consuming such low levels that there’s no evidence of harm. A spokeswoman, the sensible Clare Murphy, pointed out that, ‘Although the authors describe these findings as raising significant public health concerns, the majority of women in the UK are drinking well within the recommendations in the second trimester.’

This is a classic spook the herd exercise, designed to make pregnant women scared with no real evidence to support the contentions. I’m not saying that women should feel free to go on the lash as a regular thing when they’re pregnant, but this study raises some concerns that aren’t justified. We’re not talking foetal alcohol syndrome here, nor long term behavioural or learning problems.

What the researchers failed to mention, but the BPAS picked up, is that many women become pregnant without knowing it, hence the likelihood of having a few sherbets before they realise they’re expecting a child. Once the truth dawns they pull in their horns.