Current UK guidelines recommend that women limit their intake to two or three units a day. You shouldn’t save up units through the week and use them to binge at the weekend, and at least one day a week should be alcohol-free.
Strength and units
One unit is 8 grams, or about 10ml, of pure alcohol – regardless of how diluted it is. Below is a list of some common drinks and how many units they have in them.
One pint of strong lager (alcohol 5% vol) = 3 units
One pint of standard strength lager (alcohol 3 – 3.5% vol) = 2 units
One 275ml bottle of an alcopop (alcohol 5.5% vol) = 1.5 units
One standard (175ml) glass of wine (alcohol 12% vol) = 2 units
One measure (25ml) of a spirit strength drink = 1 unit
The recommended limits are lower for women than for men because the body composition of women has less water than men. So, even if a man and woman weigh the same and are of a similar size, the woman will tend to get drunk faster.
Some experts also think that women develop liver disease at lower levels of drinking than men, although this appears to only be the case in higher levels of alcohol consumption.
Alcohol & Pregnancy
Women who drink heavily during pregnancy are at risk of having babies with a condition called fetal alcohol syndrome. This can result in growth deficiencies, nervous system problems, lowered intelligence, and facial abnormalities in the child. It is also called fetal alcohol spectrum disorder – all the symptoms are not always present and can vary in how serious they are.
There is some evidence that pregnant women who drink 10 to 15 units a week are more likely to have underweight babies. It is not known if there is an absolutely safe limit for drinking during pregnancy, but research indicates that it may be wise to avoid alcohol altogether.