Doctors studied the drinking habits of 11,000 mothers in Bradford, UK, between 2007 and 2011, as part of the Born in Bradford (BiB) project. (Agencies)
They found more than 40 per cent drank alcohol while pregnant and 333 women continued to binge drink. The researchers defined binge drinking as having at least five units of alcohol in a short space of time - about half a bottle of wine, or two pints of beer.
The study found a link between binge drinking and the increased risk of SGA (small for gestational age weight babies) among mothers.
However, low or moderate levels of drinking did not increase the risk of having a small baby. Growth-restricted babies run a greater risk of having various neonatal complications, including breathing problems, respiratory infections and hypothermia and impaired neurodevelopment.
"Alcohol consumption during pregnancy is a contentious topic but this research demonstrates a clear link between binge drinking during pregnancy and having a small baby," said Professor John Wright, head of the BiB project.
According to government guidelines in UK, pregnant women should avoid alcohol altogether but if they do drink, it should be limited to one to two units of alcohol no more than twice a week.
"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, said lead report author Dr Duncan Cooper.
Doctors studied the drinking habits of 11,000 mothers in Bradford, UK, between 2007 and 2011, as part of the Born in Bradford (BiB) project.