Drinking alcohol while pregnant is a controversial topic among pregnant women and medical specialists. The NHS website advises women to avoid alcohol completely during pregnancy and that if they decide to drink, to only consume 1-2 units. One of the main risks concerned with drinking while pregnant is foetal alcohol syndrome or FAS, which can lead to permanent physical deformities, mental issues and emotional difficulties in the developing child.

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Alcohol can cause FAS at any time during pregnancy, and have detrimental effects at any stage due to the sensitivity of the vital systems of the body during embryo growth and foetus development. The reason that alcohol, even in small amounts can cause such great damage to a foetus is due to the immaturity of the liver in an unborn child. Although blood alcohol levels are the same in the baby as the mother, it takes much longer for the baby to remove the alcohol from its system and the developing tissues affected are much more vulnerable than in a fully developed adult.

Recently the mother of a child suffering with FAS, now aged six and living in care, has been accused of having “maliciously administered poison so as to endanger life or inflict grievous bodily harm”. Although not charged with an offence, this has rekindled the debate on whether excess drinking during pregnancy should be considered a crime. Experts related to the case have speculated that regular and arguably excessive intake would be needed to cause the abnormalities seen in this case. It has also been suggested that the child should receive a compensatory payout as the severity of this case is extreme, with the accused mother clearly not attempting to adhere to health guidelines and advice.

However, on the other hand some people hold the opinion that no mother would deliberately harm their child. Arguing that the main cause of FAS is inconsistent and unclear advice on alcohol intake coupled with insufficient support for women. Many who argue this point believe that punishment should never be enforced in cases involving FAS and that alcohol consumption while pregnant should not be a punishable crime.