A new study on pregnancy and booze shows that heavy drinking during pregnancy is harmful. This is nothing new. But this study suggests a particular negative consequence of substantial alcohol consumption during pregnancy: the kids of moms who drink a lot were, on average, smaller (at birth, through infancy and up to age 9) than kids of mom’s who drank a little bit or not at all.
As apparently weight, height and circumference can be indicators of brain growth*, the authors of the study wonder if persistently low size measurements indicate that mental development issues are more likely in kids of moms who drank a lot during pregnancy.
“These effects may be detrimental to the children as growth deficits have been shown to be related to other health problems, such as lower IQ,” study corresponding author Dr. R. Colin Carter, from Harvard Medical School, “furthermore, the effects of alcohol on growth were much more severe if the child had iron deficiency anemia as an infant, a condition that is common in the U.S. and worldwide.”
The study came out this week and will be published in the November issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. Researchers looked at two groups of South African woman: those who drank two or more drinks a day or more than four drinks at a time and those who drank less than one drink a day or not at all.
During pregnancy the women’s smoking and drinking habits were tracked and demographic info was taken into account. When babies were measured at birth, 6.5 months, 12 months, then at 5 years and 9 years of age, those exposed to large amounts of alcohol showed reduced weight, height and head circumference compared to the kids who were exposed to smaller-to-no amounts of alcohol in utero. Also, kids with fetal alcohol syndrome were leaner than other kids, though its unclear why. Interestingly, the kids who were exposed to alcohol had an iron-deficiency from early on.
Bottom line: heavy drinking during pregnancy seems like a bad idea and in my humble opinion we, as a society, should do more to support alcoholics when they become pregnant and worry a little less about the odd glass of wine during pregnancy.
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