Conventional wisdom says that responsibility comes along with maturity. But a new study found that older pregnant women may actually be more likely to drink more alcohol during pregnancy, and when they do, they may have a greater risk of the drug negatively affecting their children. The children of older women were more likely to be affected by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder than children of younger women, this seems to have been the case even when the younger women drank.
The study tested 462 children and examined drug use among their mothers. The children of older mothers who reported binge drinking scored worse on performance tests and had a higher risk of FASD than younger mothers who reported similar behavior.
Upon investigation, however, it seems there may be other factors at play…
It may be that the greater alcohol exposure is due to issues within the moms’ bodies themselves, says Lisa Chiodo, an author of the study: “This finding may be due to older moms drinking for longer periods, greater alcohol tolerance, and having more alcohol-related health problems — all leading to higher levels of alcohol in their fetuses,” “It has also been suggested that changes in body size, metabolism or composition, or number of births, which are all related to maternal age, may be factors increasing the impact of prenatal alcohol exposure.”
The women in the study were described as “inner city women”. This has a lot of implications about income, education, maternal health and prenatal care. In some cases, the mothers were using other recreational drugs as well. So who knows if these findings would be repeated if the study were done across a wider socio-economic range. I’ve seen some headlines that make me worry this is going to be taken out of context and applied to older moms across the board. Whether or a broader discovery is eventually made, this study does shed some light on why it’s so hard to determine whether there’s a safe level of alcohol during pregnancy. Alcohol affects different women, and apparently, different fetuses, differently.