Warnings on alcohol for pregnant women

Warning labels on alcohol may soon appear in NSW following reports of the doubling of birth defects due to women drinking during their pregnancies.

Infants born with foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), which causes birth defects and mental retardation, have doubled in NSW from 15 in 2001 to 32 in 2004.

But experts believe the real figure is 10 times higher, News Limited newspapers report.

And research suggests just one bout of binge drinking can cause FAS, leaving children with life-long behavioural and learning disabilities.

NSW Health Minister John Hatzistergos said the government is researching new alcohol pregnancy guidelines which may include rolling out the health advisory labels.

"We need to know two things," Mr Hatzistergos told News Limited. "What impact drinking during pregnancy has and what is the nature of any warning that should be provided on alcohol products."

No national standard exists for drinking during pregnancy.

University of Sydney paediatrics health professor Elizabeth Elliott told News Limited for every child with FAS there are 10 more with neuro-developmental problems caused by alcohol.

State and federal ministers discussed a nationwide approach to FAS at last week's ministerial council on drug strategy.

Mr Hatzistergos told News Limited a working party would examine research and discuss what alcohol warning labels would say.