AN EAST Oxford charity has taken a lead in warning women to be wary of the dangers of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

New guidelines issued by the UK's Chief Medical Officers in January, clarified that there was no 'safe' limit to drink while pregnant.

But research by the FASD Trust, which raises awareness of foetal alcohol syndrome disorder in babies, found more than 40 per cent of women surveyed continued to drink.

Julie Brown, joint CEO of the Marston Street-based charity, said: "Although many women are now aware of the government's advice, four out of 10 continue to consume alcohol during pregnancy, seemingly unaware it could cause serious damage to their baby."

The report was released on September 9 to mark FASD Awareness Day, which highlights the preventable birth defects that can be caused by drinking.

Officially one per cent of babies born in Oxfordshire – about 70 – are affected each year by vision impairment, heart defects, liver failure, a poor immune system, speech and language delays and memory issues caused by exposure to alcohol in the womb.

But the trust believes the true figure may be closer to three or four per cent, meaning a further 210 cases are going under the radar.

Ms Brown added: "For this reason we are launching a new campaign targeting midwives across the UK with the simple message 'My baby's too young to drink'.

"Midwives will receive a warning poster highlighting the dangers of drinking during pregnancy, as well as further information, resources and a helpline number."

On Friday Oxford East MP Andrew Smith met with midwives at the John Radcliffe Hospital to discuss the vital role they can play in influencing pregnant women.

Posters and information have been placed in the Women's Centre re-iterating that previous government advice for pregnant women to have no more than one or two alcohol units, once or twice a week, has now been removed.

Penny Green, a public health midwife at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are working with our midwives to raise awareness of these issues to women and their partners and are providing midwives with resources to share with women so we can reduce the number of preventable birth defects.”

Mr Smith said: "This locally-based charity is doing a great job at raising awareness of FASD and it’s good to see the OUH putting effort into education, support and treatment.

"I shall be working with the FASD Trust to raise the profile of this nationally and get more done."