Irish women are biggest drinkers while pregnant
Irish women have the world's highest rate of drinking alcohol while pregnant.
A new global study in 'Lancet Global Health' found 60pc of births in Ireland have evidence of their mother consuming alcohol during pregnancy.
This compares to 47pc in Belarus, 46pc in Denmark and 41pc in the UK.
The research looked at more than 3,500 Irish maternal records from 1990 to 2011 and examined the rate of foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), where the baby in the womb was affected.
The study said around 119,000 children are born with this syndrome across the world annually and symptoms can include developmental delay, shorter stature and distinct facial features.
The advice from the Department of Health is that women should not drink any alcohol during pregnancy.
Globally, nearly 10pc of women drink alcohol during pregnancy, with wide variations by country and WHO region.
In some countries, more than 45pc of women consume alcohol during pregnancy.
"We estimated that one in 67 mothers who drink during pregnancy will deliver a child with FAS," says lead author Dr Svetlana Popova, senior scientist in Institute for Mental Health Policy Research, Canada.
She suggested this figure was very conservative and did not include other types of FASD that may occur from alcohol consumption during pregnancy, including partial FAS (pFAS) and Alcohol-related Neurodevelopmental Disorders (ARND).
Although it's well established that alcohol can damage any organ or system in the developing foetus, particularly the brain, it's still not known exactly what makes a foetus vulnerable to the amount or frequency of alcohol use during pregnancy, the study pointed out.