NICE's preliminary recommendations on antenatal care state that pregnant women should limit intake to 'less than one standard drink (1.5 units or 12g of alcohol) per day and if possible avoid alcohol in the first three months of pregnancy'.
The guidance appears to conflict with advice issued in May by the DoH that urged women to abstain from alcohol completely during pregnancy.
Long-standing guidance from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists says that women should drink no more than two units, twice a week.
Dr Sarah Jarvis, RCGP spokeswoman for women's health, said: 'It is a complete mess as it conflicts with previous advice and may actually make pregnant women less likely to follow any guidance at all.
'NICE has said that women are allowed 1.5 units a day, but it can be hard to measure this because sizes vary. A small glass of wine at home can be much bigger than a small glass in a bar,' she added.
GPs should advise abstinence if possible, but if women cannot stick to that then the occasional drink every two weeks should be fine, said Dr Jarvis.
'But pregnant women should try to avoid alcohol in the first three months,' she added.
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