Zero Alcohol Consumption Urged For Pregnancies
January 18, 2012

Zero Alcohol Consumption Urged For Pregnancies

Researchers are suggesting in a new study that there are no safe thresholds for alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

Published Monday in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, confidential data on drinking patterns from 992 California women during their pregnancies was collected to examine the impact of quantity, frequency and timing of alcohol exposure on the condition. Following childbirth, the babies were examined for signs of alcohol exposure, reports Maureen Salamon of USA Today's HealthDay.

Fetal alcohol syndrome can result in physical, behavioral and learning problems and is believed to affect about 1 percent of the American population. People with the syndrome may have abnormal facial features, such as a smooth ridge between the nose and upper lip, small head size, unusually small-set eyes and shorter-than-average height.

Higher levels of alcohol exposure were linked to a greater risk of infants born smaller and lighter, the most significant associations were observed during the second half of the first trimester of pregnancy.

For every one-drink increase in the daily average number of drinks consumed during this stage of pregnancy, there was a 25 percent higher risk for having a smooth ridge between the nose and upper lip; a 22 percent higher chance of having an abnormally thin upper lip.

There was alsoa 12 percent elevated risk of having a smaller-than-normal head, a 16 percent greater risk of reduced birth weight and an 18 percent higher chance of reduced birth length. The likelihood of shorter birth length was associated with drinking in any trimester, the study found.

“There is almost 40 years of research [on fetal alcohol syndrome], but one of the challenges has been determining what are the windows of risk and the patterns in timing and quantity of alcohol use, and this [study] addresses that,” Tom Donaldson, president of the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in Washington, D.C., told Salamon.

“This article very clearly demonstrates that risk begins with any use.”

While the most significant link to damage was found in weeks seven through 12 of pregnancy, that doesn´t mean it´s safe to drink earlier or later, reports Shari Roan for the LA Times. Some women who drink heavily in early pregnancy have miscarriages, which were not counted in this study.


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