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Pregnant Women: Alcohol Consumption

Volume 598: debated on Tuesday 7 July 2015

13. What recent assessment he has made of the implications for his policies of guidance from the chief medical officer on the consumption of alcohol by pregnant women. (900788)

We know that too many women may be unaware of the health risks from drinking during pregnancy. The chief medical officer’s review of the alcohol guidelines—the hon. Gentleman knows, because we have spoken about it—includes consideration of the Government’s advice on drinking during pregnancy. The UK chief medical officers are meeting to discuss this in September, and we expect to consult on the new guidance in the autumn.

I thank the Minister for her answer and remind Members that 7,000 children are damaged every year from irreversible brain damage as a result of alcohol consumed by their mothers during pregnancy. I urge the Minister please to clear up the confusion in the advice available to pregnant women at the moment, which on the one hand says, “Do not drink at all”; and on the other hand says, “If you do drink, have only one or two units”.

The message is actually very clear, as we have labelling on over 90% of bottles. As the hon. Gentleman knows from the debates we have had on the subject, it is a difficult area and there is no consistent evidence of adverse effects from low to moderate pre-natal alcohol consumption. I have talked this through with the chief medical officer: we have to get the balance right between warning women and responding to the important stats the hon. Gentleman has mentioned, without causing unnecessary worry for the around 50% of women who do not plan their pregnancy and might have drunk alcohol before they realised they were pregnant.