The most recent version of the Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol was released by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in 2009.
For women who are pregnant, planning a pregnancy or breastfeeding, the advice is clear: no alcohol is the safest option.
Summary of alcohol guidelines to reduce the risk of short and long-term harm
Guideline 1: Reducing the risk of alcohol-related harm over a lifetime
The lifetime risk of harm from drinking alcohol increases with the amount consumed.
For healthy men and women, drinking no more than two standard drinks on any day reduces the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury.
Guideline 2: Reducing the risk of injury on a single occasion of drinking
On a single occasion of drinking, the risk of alcohol-related injury increases with the amount consumed.
For healthy men and women, drinking no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion reduces the risk of alcohol-related injury arising from that occasion.
Guideline 3: Children and young people under 18 years of age
For children and young people under 18 years of age, not drinking alcohol is the safest option.
A. Parents and carers should be advised that children under 15 years of age are at the greatest risk of harm from drinking and that for this age group, not drinking alcohol is especially important.
B. For young people aged 15−17 years, the safest option is to delay the initiation of drinking for as long as possible.
Guideline 4: Pregnancy and breastfeeding
Maternal alcohol consumption can harm the developing fetus or breastfeeding baby.
A. For women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, not drinking is the safest option.
B. For women who are breastfeeding, not drinking is the safest option.
It may also be useful to know that the previous edition of the guidelines, published in 2001, was not as clear about the risk of fetal alcohol exposure. The 2001 guidelines advised that women who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, and breastfeeding ‘may consider not drinking at all’ and ‘should never become intoxicated’. Unfortunately, some health professionals still refer to this out-dated advice.
For further information on the current 2009 guidelines and the research that supports them, click here.