Pregnant women should not drink alcohol at all state updated alcohol guidelines produced by the UK Chief Medical Officers.
They said that previous advice for pregnant women to limit themselves to no more than one or two units of alcohol once or twice per week has been removed to provide greater clarity.
The guidelines which have been updated for the first time in 20 years warn that drinking any level of alcohol is harmful and can increase the risk of a range of cancers. This is supported by a new review from the Committee on Carcinogenity on alcohol and cancer risk. The new guidelines are aimed at keeping the risk of mortality from cancers and other diseases low.
'Drinking any level of alcohol regularly carries a health risk for anyone, but if men and women limit their intake to no more then 14 units a week it keeps the risk of illness like cancer and liver disease low,' said Chief Medical Officer for England Dame Sally Davies.
'I want pregnant women to be very clear that they should avoid alcohol as a precaution. Although the risk of harm to the baby is low if they have drunk small amounts of alcohol before becoming aware of the pregnancy, there is no ‘safe’ level of alcohol to drink when you are pregnant,' she adds.
This review also found that the benefits of alcohol for heart health only applied to women aged 55 and over and the greatest benefit is seen when intake is limited to around five units a week.
This led to a change in alcohol guidelines for men. Men are now advised to consume no more than 14 units of alcohol a week. The previous guidelines advised no more than 21 units.
An additional recommendation is to not 'save up' the 14 units for one or two days, but to spread them over three or more days. People who have one or two heavy drinking sessions each week increase the risk from long term illnesses, accidents and injuries.
The development of the new guidelines was chaired by Professor Mark Petticrew, Professor of Public Health Evaluation at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and by Professor Sally Macintyre, Professor Emeritus at the University of Glasgow
Professor Petticrew, said: 'This new guidance has been based on a wide range of new evidence from this country and overseas. We have reviewed all the evidence thoroughly and our guidance is firmly based on the science, but we also considered what is likely to be acceptable as a low risk level of drinking and the need to have a clear message.'