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NHS wants to record if mums had single glass of alcohol in first week of pregnancy

A pregnant women holds her bump and a glass of red wine.
A single glass of alcohol in the first week of pregnancy would be recorded under the plans (Picture: Getty Images)

The NHS could record whether pregnant women had any alcohol during their first week of pregnancy. 

Privacy concerns have been raised over the revelations, that would involve the medical records of children in England and Wales showing whether expecting mums had even a single glass of alcohol in the seven days after falling pregnant.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) is consulting on the proposed guidelines, which would make it mandatory to record all alcohol consumed by expectant mothers. It  hopes that the move could identify children at risk of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which can cause physical and behavioural problems.

Scotland already records such data, but there have been warnings that the plan could impact privacy rights, with the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) saying it would violate the EU’s general data protection regulations.

The charity, which provides assistance to around 100,000 women a year, also said there had been ‘no compelling research showing harm at lower levels’ of alcohol consumption.

Spokeswoman Clare Murphy said: ‘Women do not lose their right to medical confidentiality simply because they are pregnant.

‘Most women report drinking very little alcohol in pregnancy if any at all, even if they may have drunk before a positive pregnancy test.’

Rebecca Brione from charity Birthrights, which promotes human rights in maternity care, said it was ‘unacceptable to propose such measures without any assessment of the impact on women and pregnant people’.

Aston University’s senior sociology lecturer Pam Lowe said the General Medical Council guidance on confidentiality suggests sharing information without informed consent might be justified if not doing so placed others at risk of death or serious harm.

However, she added: ‘Although foetal alcohol spectrum disorder can have serious neurodevelopmental effects, the shared information makes no difference to the level of harm.

‘Consequently, alcohol consumption during pregnancy does not meet the public interest threshold of harm.’

Nice’s consultation is expected to be published on January 26.

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