Alcohol During Pregnancy
Earlier on in the year, we highlighted a legal case about a local authority taking legal action against a mother who drank excessively during pregnancy. Due to her behaviour, her child was born with foetal alcohol syndrome.
As Christmas rapidly approaches, more alcohol than usual will flow. Following the recent decision this may be a good time to further analyse the case.
NICE Guidelines for Pregnant Drinkers
The compensation that the local authority was awarding was supposed to be for the benefit of the child. Foetal alcohol syndrome can leave children with liver damage, kidney and heart defects, hormonal disorders, epilepsy and even cerebral palsy.
There is no definitive answer on how much alcohol can safely be consumed by pregnant women but NICE guidelines show that 1-2 units of alcohol, twice a week is the maximum. Generally, it's recommended that women should avoid alcohol altogether just to be on the safe side
. Getting drunk or binge drinking should be avoided at all costs.
The judge came to the decision that a pregnant mother, who drinks excessively knowing that it could potentially cause damage to the child, is not guilty of a criminal offence, even if the child is born with some kind of damage.
Education And Support More Productive
Fiona Sansom, Solicitor at Simpson Millar LLP, said "This case highlights the tension between protecting the rights of the expectant mother to treat her own body as she wishes, and the rights of her child to be protected in the womb from serious harm. Our experience at Simpson Millar LLP is that many women who abuse alcohol during pregnancy have multiple social and personal problems."
If at all possible, it's important to work through whatever issues may be pushing you towards drinking alcohol. Sometimes, alcohol is used to hide or mask problems such as domestic abuse or violence
. If this is the case, there are support services and of course the law which can help to put you back on track. People who have been abused can apply for occupation orders
if the abuser lives with them or non- molestation orders
which can prevent violence towards you and your child.
In closing, Fiona commented, "Whilst we recognise the dreadful, lifelong consequences for the child affected by alcohol, it may be that education and support
are more productive ways of addressing the problem rather than creating yet another crime, and making the mother a criminal."