The Telethon Kids Institute's Professor Carol Bower is not surprised by new research that shows alcohol use in pregnancy is 'common'.
"It certainly backs up similar research that we've done at the Telethon Kids Institute," says Professor Bower who heads the Institute's alcohol and pregnancy research team.
The new study on Prevalence and predictors of alcohol use during pregnancy, which was published in BMJ Open, compared pregnant women's alcohol consumption in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland.
It found 40 per cent of Australian women, 56 per cent of New Zealand women, 75 per cent of women in the UK, and 82 per cent or Irish women consumed at least some alcohol during pregnancy.
"Australia was the lowest among the UK, Ireland and New Zealand comparison," says Professor Bower. "But it's still very high and cause for serious concern."
In 2007, Professor Bower oversaw Telethon Kids Institute research which found almost 60 per cent of Australian women drank alcohol in at least one trimester of pregnancy.
"This latest study suggests things haven't changed a great deal and we still have a lot of work to do to promote the message that no alcohol during pregnancy is the safest choice."
Professor Bower says drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, a low birth weight baby and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders or FASD.
"FASD is very serious and something we really need to prevent," Professor Bower says. "Children with FASD can have intellectual disability, problems with executive functioning and behavioural issues. They can have poor school performance, they can have mental health problems and they're more likely to get in trouble with the law."
The study found smoking was the most consistent predictor of alcohol use in pregnancy, with smokers 17 to 50 per cent more likely to drink.
Professor Bower says the information from the study showed that fewer women drank alcohol in the second trimester than in the first trimester of pregnancy, suggesting that women were willing and able to stop drinking alcohol. This is important information to health researchers and policy makers as it will help them target health messages and campaigns to assist women to avoid alcohol throughout pregnancy.
"There really is no safe amount of alcohol to drink during pregnancy," Professor Bower says. "I would advise pregnant women who are social drinkers to stop immediately. For women who have an alcohol addiction, going cold turkey for them can be dangerous so they need to see a health professional to get help to reduce their alcohol use."
For more information on alcohol, pregnancy and FASD, click here.