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02/03/2007

Ireland - 60% of pregnant women drink alcohol

reland, 2 March. More than 60 per cent of women continue to drink alcohol while pregnant, according to a new survey.

The survey is the largest study of its kind ever conducted in Ireland, and the findings were unveiled by Minister for Health Mary Harney in the Coombe Women's Hospital on 2 March.

It examines trends in the consumption of alcohol, tobacco and drugs by over 120,000 pregnant women during the past two decades.

Irish and UK-born mothers were more likely to report themselves as consuming more than six units of alcohol a week compared with EU and non-EU nationals. A total of 7.1 per cent of those surveyed admitted to drinking more than six units of alcohol per week.

The highest percentage category reporting drinking over 10 units per week was the 18-24 year-olds, while more than two-thirds of all pregnant under-18 year olds reported drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

Dr Siobhán Barry, visiting psychiatrist at the Coombe and lead researcher on the study, said that alcohol consumption patterns in pregnancy give particular cause for concern.

"More efforts are required to enable pregnant women and women who are contemplating pregnancy to make healthier choices. Consumption of psychoactive substances such as alcohol or illicit drugs and tobacco is best avoided in pregnancy," she said.