The National Health and Medical Research Council's guidelines on drinking during pregnancy provide insufficient and potentially alarming advice to women about the effects of low-level drinking, a leading pharmacist says. There were concerns some women will consider terminations due to unwarranted fears for their babies' health, Ron Batagol, an obstetric drug information consultant, said. In particular, he said, the guidelines did not take into account two major studies by researchers from Oxford University and University College London which tracked about 11,000 women and their babies until the youngsters were three and five years old. The research found that children of women who had engaged in light drinking - defined as one to two drinks per week or per occasion - were not at increased risk of behavioural difficulties or cognitive deficits compared with children of mothers who did not drink during pregnancy. The NHMRC guidelines say that for women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, not drinking is the safest option, and that ''women who drank alcohol before they knew they were pregnant or during their pregnancy should be reassured that the majority of babies exposed to alcohol suffer no observable harm. The risk to the foetus from low-level drinking is likely to be low.'' In a letter published in the Medical Journal of Australia on Monday, Mr Batagol said although he agreed it was ideal not to drink during pregnancy, the guidelines relied on ''poorly designed studies to support the implication that there are residual risks to the foetus from a pregnant woman consuming alcohol at a low level'' and should be clearer ''to avoid the prospect of unnecessary anxiety or contemplation of unwarranted termination''. Mr Batagol, the author of Taking Medicines in Pregnancy - What's Safe and What's Not, said that peak health advisory and obstetrics groups in Britain, the US and Canada had expressed concern about the potential for unwarranted abortions following low-level alcohol use during pregnancy, and that the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada now said ''healthcare providers should advise women that low-level consumption of alcohol in early pregnancy is not an indication for termination of pregnancy''. ''The time is overdue for the NHMRC to provide a similar statement to provide greater reassurance to women who have consumed low levels of alcohol during pregnancy,'' Mr Batagol wrote. Mr Batagol said the two British studies published in the International Journal of Epidemiology and the British Medical Journal showed no evidence of harm from low-level use of alcohol. Mr Batagol, a former member of the Therapeutic Goods Administration Advisory Committee on Prescribing Medicines, said although some people would argue his nuanced message would create a ''slippery slope'' that encouraged women to drink, not informing women of the evidence was ''demeaning'', especially if they were responsible and genuinely seeking information on the risks.