Drinking during pregnancy is not without risk

·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Fuse/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Fuse/Getty Images

Zoe Williams could not be more wrong (Bilge, booze and misogyny: why I’m outraged by a new idea to police pregnant women, 18 September): drinking in pregnancy is everyone’s concern. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) consultation document provided compelling arguments explaining why society should be concerned about foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).

For example, a systematic review and meta-analysis in the Lancet in 2017 revealed that the UK was among the five countries with the highest (41.3%) estimated prevalence of alcohol use during pregnancy. According to Nice, this results in an annual societal cost of over £2bn to support victims of FASD. Williams’ article simply perpetuates the debate about how much alcohol causes birth defects, when the advice should always be based on the argument that “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”.
David J Wilson
Professor of medical education, Cardiff University School of Medicine

• I understand Zoe Williams’ anger, but it’s more complicated than the patriarchy seizing control. As an ex-director of children’s services I saw too many children’s life chances destroyed by foetal alcohol disorder, and while I can’t disagree that 20 units a week is moderate, I just don’t know if it is safe, and it’s not the sort of science where double-blind testing is appropriate. So it would be more helpful for Zoe to redirect her anger to thinking about how she would keep children safe, rather than ranting about the best efforts of the (in this case, female) professionals.
John Freeman
(Director of children’s services, Dudley, 2005-08), Kingswinford, West Midlands

• After reading Zoe Williams’ piece, I have to confess I had a few alcoholic drinks at Christmas when I was 10 weeks pregnant, and nor did I breastfeed my baby son. That son, now 59 years old, works as a senior design engineer and is happily married with two offspring who are now university students.

The chemicals used in certain manufacturing processes should be of far more concern. Many of these are known hazards to health as well as to the environment. They should be more generally known about and acted upon, with safer alternatives available.
Phyll Hardie
Thorpe St Andrew, Norwich