Monday, November 23, 2009

Alcohol in Pregnancy has Variety of Possible Effects

A new study from Perth's Telethon Institute for Child Health Research has found evidence that the amount and timing of alcohol consumption in pregnancy affects child behavior in different ways.

The study has just been published online in the international journal Addiction.

Lead author Colleen O'Leary said the analysis was drawn from a random sample of more than 2000 mothers who completed a questionnaire three months after the baby's delivery, and were then followed up when the child was 2, 5 and 8 years of age.

"Mothers who reported what we would classify as heavy drinking in the first trimester of pregnancy were nearly three times as likely to report that their child suffered with anxiety and/or depression or somatic complaints," Ms O'Leary said.

“Those who drank moderately during that first trimester were twice as likely to report those types of behavioral issues for their child.

“Exposure to moderate or heavy levels of alcohol in late pregnancy increased the risk of aggressive types of behaviors in the child.

“This research suggests that both the timing and the intensity of alcohol exposure in the womb affect the type of behaviour problems expressed.”

In this study low levels of alcohol did not increase the risk of harm to the baby. However, the evidence clearly shows that the risk to the baby increases with increasing amounts consumed.

“It should also be noted that in this study moderate exposure is classified as drinking 3-4 standard drinks per occasion- that's about two normal glasses of wine-and no more than a bottle of wine drunk over a week.”

Heavy drinking included women who were drinking the equivalent of more than a bottle of wine per week.

“Not every child will be affected by prenatal exposure to alcohol. However it is important that women have this information about increased risk so that they can make informed decisions to give their child the best start to life,” Ms O'Leary said.

The National Health and Medical Research Council recommend that the safest choice for women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy is to abstain from alcohol.

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