Sir Al Aynsley-Green, an Emeritus Professor of Child Health at University College London, has stated that: “Exposure to alcohol before birth is one of the most significant causes of childhood brain damage, learning disability, poor behaviour and even criminality, affecting up to one in every 100 infants.”
On the back of this, he is pushing for tougher labelling of alcohol and asking that the Government raises public awareness of the dangers posed by alcohol in pregnancy as well as making the advice for expectant mothers much clearer. There is much debate over what is a safe limit of alcohol in pregnancy with some arguing that there is no safe limit and that alcohol should be avoided in pregnancy altogether.
Drinking alcohol in pregnancy can cause foetal alcohol spectrum disorders, the most severe form of which is known as Foetal Alcohol Syndrome. Exposure to alcohol in utero can cause altered facial appearance, particularly if the exposure is significant in the first three months of pregnancy, together with limited height and weight, learning difficulties, low intelligence, executive functioning difficulties and behavioural problems.
The condition is thought to be under-diagnosed and concern has been expressed that the services to support diagnosis and management of affected children are inadequate.
Alison Appelboam Meadows, a partner in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches said: “We act for many children who have unfortunately suffered brain damage. As part of our investigations, it is necessary to consider the causes of that damage and whether it was sustained in utero, during birth or after birth, and could have been avoided.”