Home > 'No safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy'

Mongan, Deirdre (2007) 'No safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy'. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 24, Winter 2007, p. 4.

On 7 September 2007, Mr Pat the Cope Gallagher TD, Minister for Health Promotion and Food Safety, highlighted the risk of alcohol consumption in pregnancy. Minister Gallagher stated: 'I wish to endorse the advice being given today by the Department of Health and Children’s Chief Medical Officer. It is essential that women are provided with all the relevant information for a safe and successful pregnancy. Therefore, women need to be aware of the risk associated with alcohol consumption during pregnancy. As the evidence does not specify a safe level of alcohol consumption, the best advice to women is not to consume alcohol if pregnant or trying to conceive.'


The minister’s statement follows the publication of a report earlier this year entitled The Coombe Women’s Hospital study of alcohol, smoking and illicit drug use, 1988–2005, which found that most pregnant women drink alcohol, with one in 10 drinking more than six units per week, a pattern more pronounced in younger women. Following this publication, Mary Harney TD, Minister for Health and Children, asked the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) to consider the data presented in the study. The CMO also reviewed the available international evidence, including that from the Surgeon General in the US and the Department of Health in the UK.


The CMO has concluded that ‘there is no safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy’, and has given unambiguous advice on the matter, stating: ‘Given the harmful drinking patterns in Ireland and the propensity to “binge drink”, there is a substantial risk of neurological damage to the foetus resulting in Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). Alcohol offers no benefits to pregnancy outcomes. Therefore, it is in the child’s best interest for a pregnant woman not to drink alcohol during pregnancy.'


The Health Service Executive (HSE) will commence work on updating information material for use by the general public and medical professionals to include the CMO’s advice that women should avoid alcohol before and during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. The HSE will also meet with relevant stakeholders with regard to developing and implementing education initiatives on this issue for health professionals. The Department of Health and Children is consulting with relevant stakeholders on the proposal to introduce a requirement that alcohol containers and promotional material carry a health warning about drinking alcohol during pregnancy.


1. Department of Health and Children (2007) Minister Gallagher renews advice to women not to drink alcohol in pregnancy. Press release, 7 September. Retrieved 12/09/2007 from http://www.dohc.ie/press/releases/2007/20070907.html.

2. Barry S, Kearney A, Lawlor E, McNamee E and Barry J (2006) The Coombe Women’s Hospital study of alcohol, smoking and illicit drug use, 1988–2005. Dublin: Coombe Women’s Hospital.

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