In the past two days, physicians, public health officials, and researchers have been responding to the media coverage of the UK study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health earlier this week. The study claims that 1-2 drinks of alcohol a week during pregnancy is not harmful (see my post yesterday for more details).

The response to this study has been truly global. One of the major concerns of experts is the lasting harm that the widespread coverage of this article could have. Alcohol during pregnancy has always been a highly charged topic and making sure that accurate, helpful and timely information is readily available is always a challenge.

I don’t think the confusion that one study can cause should be underestimated. As an example, I just took a look at the report on UK study on the CBC News web site. Following the article, there is a reader survey that asks the following question:  Does this new study change the way you feel about drinking during pregnancy? The answers at the time of writing this post with 1071 responses:

  • 38% say “Everything is OK in moderation”
  • 52% say “You shouldn’t drink at all during pregnancy”
  • 10% say “I’m not sure.”

This is a far from scientific poll, but it’s a clear indication of the mixed messages that people are receiving.

If you’re speaking with anyone about this recent study, you might want to mention the Motherisk web site to them. They have an Alcohol and Substance Use hotline as well as a friendly Myth vs Fact section on alcohol and pregnancy.

Read more:

Study reignites debate on drinking during pregnancy (CTV News, October 6, 2010)

Drinking & Pregnancy Study Has U.S. Doctors Angry (CBS, October 6, 2010)

Experts question UK study which says light drinking in pregnancy is not harmful (The Australian, October 6, 2010)