RCGP slates NICE on alcohol in pregnancy

NICE guidance on alcohol consumption in pregnancy has been branded ‘a complete mess’ by the RCGP.

NICE’s preliminary recommendations (http://www.nice.org.uk/) on antenatal care state that pregnant women should limit their 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’.

However, the guidance appears to conflict with advice, issued in May, by the DoH that urged women to abstain from alcohol completely during pregnancy.

While 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 that the NICE guidance would only serve to confuse women.

‘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 says that women are allowed a small glass of wine, 1.5 units a day, but it can be hard to measure this as sizes vary considerably.

‘A small glass of wine in a bar can be much bigger than a small glass at home.’

GPs should advise abstinence if possible, but if women cannot stick to that then the occasional drink every one or two weeks should be fine, said Dr Jarvis.

‘But pregnant women should try to avoid alcohol in the first three months,’ she added.

The NICE recommendations are subject to consultation and final guidance is due to be published in March next year.

sanjay.tanday@haymarket.com

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