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Research finds 68% increased risk of small baby birth for women who binge drink during the second trimester of pregnancy

A newly published UK report on birth outcomes related to alcohol consumption claims to be the first study to discover a clear link between binge drinking and the increased risk of SGA (small for gestational age weight babies) among mothers.

The results of the Born in Bradford project, which tracked the alcohol habits of mothers throughout the city between 2007 and 2010, showed that out of nearly 11,000 participants, 3% (333) self-reported binge drinking* into the second trimester of their pregnancy (3 to 6-month period). Those mums increased their risk of having an SGA birth by 68%.

Doctors from the Born in Bradford project also found that as many as 1 in 10 babies are born in the city with a lower than expected birth-weight which can be linked to their mothers continually drinking more than the recommended daily alcohol allowance.

Government guidelines advise against binge drinking during pregnancy altogether, as heavy and regular alcohol intake during pregnancy can cause foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), which may play a significant factor in SGA births. Growth-restricted babies run a greater risk of having various neonatal complications, including breathing problems, respiratory infections and hypothermia and impaired neurodevelopment.

The association between binge drinking and birth outcomes: results from the Born in Bradford cohort study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, adds to a growing body of evidence of a dose-response relationship between alcohol consumption and the risk of foetal growth restriction.

Lead author Dr Duncan Cooper said: “Our findings support government policy that while there is no risk from drinking small amounts of alcohol during pregnancy, women should not binge drink as there are significant risks and consequences for their unborn child.

“Our research results will help inform public-health messages to the public and help women make informed decisions before and during pregnancy.”


* Binge drinking is defined as consuming 5 units of alcohol in a 24-hour period, approximately twice the recommended limit for women.