SPECIALISTS helping pregnant women who have problems with drugs and alcohol see as many as 22 referrals every month, according to new figures.

Midwife Jo Poskitt said the figure is usually between 14 and 22 and includes all substances such as alcohol, heroin, cannabis and prescription medication.

Cannabis is the most commonly used drug by pregnant women, closely followed by other stimulant drugs and alcohol, she said.

Of those referrals, Ms Poskitt said 25 per cent of women were still drinking alcohol - both low and high quantities - which can increase the risk of alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorders and birth defects.

She said: "Women know they shouldn't drink alcohol but they don't really know why - they're not aware of the risks.

"We don't want to scaremonger or make women feel guilty, but we want to provide information and advice about the effects to help them make a choice."