Drinking in pregnancy shows up in child's growth: study

August 15, 2012
Drinking in pregnancy shows up in child's growth: study
Research finds reduced height, weight, head size in kids whose mothers drank heavily while expecting.

(HealthDay) -- Children who had significant prenatal exposure to alcohol may have delayed weight gain during infancy and alcohol-related growth restriction from early infancy until 9 years of age, researchers report.

Weight, height and are indications of , the study authors pointed out. Persistent reductions in these measurements among exposed to in the suggest the effects may be permanent and could affect their mental development, according to the study published online Aug. 15 and in the November print issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

"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, an instructor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, said in a news release from Children's Hospital Boston. "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 involved newly pregnant women in Cape Town, South Africa. The researchers divided the women into two groups based on their drinking habits. In the first group, there were 85 women who drank two or more drinks per day or four or more drinks at a time. The second group included 63 women who did not drink at all or drank less than one drink daily.

While pregnant, the women described their smoking habits and alcohol and drug use to researchers, and provided demographic information. Their babies were measured for length, weight and head circumference when they were 6.5 months and 12 months old. These were also taken when the children were 5 years and 9 years old.

Children whose mothers drank heavily while they were pregnant had reduced weight, height and head circumference, compared to children who were not exposed to as much alcohol, the study revealed.

"This alcohol-related growth restriction was present in early and persisted through to 9 years of age. What is important is that these effects were exacerbated by iron deficiency in infancy," Carter said. "By contrast, iron deficiency at 5 years of age and food security did not impact the effects of alcohol on growth."

Children with significant prenatal alcohol exposure had a delay in at 12 months old, the study found. In addition, the children with fetal alcohol syndrome and partial fetal alcohol syndrome had leaner body composition than other children who did not have these conditions.

The study authors said that growth restrictions should be used as a marker for to alcohol.

"We saw a postnatal delay in weight gain at 12 months, which may have relevance for postnatal nutritional interventions," Carter said. "The leaner body composition seen in children with [fetal alcohol or partial fetal alcohol syndrome] could be attributable to decreased nutritional intake, for example, total energy or protein, increased metabolic needs, for example, from increased catabolism or physical activity, or a deficit in nutrient utilization in alcohol-exposed children."

Explore further: Functional neurologic abnormalities due to prenatal alcohol exposure are common

More information:
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about alcohol and pregnancy.


Related Stories

Functional neurologic abnormalities due to prenatal alcohol exposure are common

July 23, 2012
Most children who are exposed to large amounts of alcohol while in the womb do not go on to develop fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Instead, problems that arise fall under a broader term that describes a spectrum of adverse ...

Drinking during pregnancy increases risk of premature birth

April 11, 2011
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of miscarriage, premature birth, and low birth weight. But there are conflicting reports about how much alcohol, if any, it is safe for a pregnant woman ...

Recommended for you

Marijuana use amongst youth stable, but substance abuse admissions up

August 15, 2017
While marijuana use amongst youth remains stable, youth admission to substance abuse treatment facilities has increased, according to new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York.

Report reveals underground US haven for heroin, drug users

August 8, 2017
A safe haven where drug users inject themselves with heroin and other drugs has been quietly operating in the United States for the past three years, a report reveals.

Regular energy drink use linked to later drug use among young adults

August 8, 2017
Could young adults who regularly consume highly caffeinated energy drinks be at risk for future substance use? A new study by University of Maryland School of Public Health researchers, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol ...

Gamblers more likely to have suffered childhood traumas, research shows

August 2, 2017
Men with problem and pathological gambling addictions are more likely to have suffered childhood traumas including physical abuse or witnessing violence in the home, according to new research.

Incorporating 12-step program elements improves youth substance-use disorder treatment

July 26, 2017
A treatment program for adolescents with substance-use disorder that incorporates the practices and philosophy of 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) produced even better results than the current state-of-the ...

Concern with potential rise in super-potent cannabis concentrates

July 21, 2017
University of Queensland researchers are concerned the recent legalisation of medicinal cannabis in Australia may give rise to super-potent cannabis concentrates with associated harmful effects.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.