Posters Suggesting That Women Can Drink While Pregnant Stir Backlash

“DrinkWise wants to ensure all women are aware of the risks of drinking while pregnant,” he wrote.

In the updated poster, the disputed line was replaced with: “A very important choice you can make for the health of your baby is to abstain from alcohol while pregnant, planning a pregnancy or breast-feeding.” The news was first reported by The Sydney Morning Herald.

Indeed, health organizations are virtually unanimous on the issue: Women shouldn’t drink while pregnant. Doing so can cause an array of physical and mental impairments in the child.

It’s the advice from, among others: Australia’s Alcohol and Drug Foundation, Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council, Britain’s National Health Service, the American Pregnancy Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (The C.D.C. faced a backlash in 2016 for recommending that sexually active women who are not on birth control remain sober in case of an unplanned pregnancy.)

While just about every public health organization agrees the best option is to not drink, there is some debate about the exact effects of drinking early in a pregnancy, or drinking small amounts throughout. Some studies have suggested the effects are minimal.

But many working in public health note that those studies are far from conclusive, and they say the uncertainty shouldn’t be taken as a green light to drink.

It’s an issue that advocates continue to push in Australia through public health campaigns. A study published in the Medical Journal of Australia reported that 53 percent of pregnant Australian women drank in 2007, but the number had fallen to 35 percent by 2011. In that time, the number of women who drank after the first trimester dropped to 26 percent from 42 percent.

Tony Bartone, president of the Australian Medical Association, confirmed that the group wrote a letter to DrinkWise protesting the language in the poster. He said it was “disappointing to see such misinformation got into the public space in the first place.”

“It doesn’t matter who funds it,” he said. “The messaging should still reflect the evidence-based findings.”

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