All women of childbearing age should avoid drinking alcohol, the World Health Organisation has clearly recommended.
A draft Global Alcohol Action Plan published on the organisation’s website said anti-drinking campaigns should target women in particular, regardless of whether or not they intend to get pregnant.
It is due to the risk of damaging a baby in the womb but critics have called the advice ‘paternalistic’ and ‘sexist’.
The move could mean that millions of women around the world are told to abstain from alcohol for several decades of their lives.
It is despite the fact that men are far more likely to die from the effects of alcohol consumption globally.
The WHO document states: ‘Appropriate attention should be given to prevention of the initiation of drinking among children and adolescents, prevention of drinking among pregnant women and women of childbearing age, and protection of people from pressures to drink, especially in societies with high levels of alcohol consumption where heavy drinkers are encouraged to drink even more.’
Studies have shown that damage can be done to a foetus by drinking alcohol during the first few weeks of pregnancy, when many women may not yet know they are pregnant.