Pregnancy: alcohol causes nerve damage

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Increased neurological damage from alcohol in pregnancy

Every woman should be aware that alcohol consumption during pregnancy can cause considerable harm to her unborn child. So far, fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) has been considered a typical consequence of alcohol consumption in pregnant women. Added to this, however, are the relatively widespread disorders of the central nervous system, which pose an additional risk for the offspring.

Scientists led by Devon Kuehn from the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda (Maryland, USA) and Sofía Aros from the University of Chile in Santiago have found that the neurological disorders summarized under the term "Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders" (FASD) are a more common one Phenomenon is called Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. So far, however, these impairments of the offspring caused by alcohol during pregnancy have often remained undetected, according to the scientists in the specialist magazine "Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research".

Almost 10,000 pregnant women questioned about their alcohol consumption As part of their cohort study, the researchers initially asked 9,628 Chilean women about their alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Of the pregnant women interviewed, 101 were selected who consumed at least four drinks a day. 101 women without alcohol during pregnancy served as a control group. "Detailed data on alcohol consumption during pregnancy was collected and children up to the age of 8.5 were examined in clinics," write the researchers led by Devon Kuehn and Sofía Aros. In order to avoid falsifying the results, the investigating doctors in the clinics were not informed, according to the scientists, that some mothers had drunk during pregnancy.

80 percent of children exposed to alcohol show abnormalities The researchers report that 80 percent of children whose mothers had drunk during pregnancy experienced “one or more abnormalities associated with alcohol exposure”. The researchers registered functional abnormalities of the central nervous system in 44 percent of the children exposed to alcohol, in the control group only 13.6 percent suffered from comparable impairments. Abnormal facial features, which are also an obvious indication of alcohol-related impairments in the offspring of doctors, were found in 17.3 percent of children exposed to alcohol (compared to 1.1 percent in the control group). Inhibitions of growth suffered from 27.2 percent of children in the alcohol exposure group and 12.5 percent in the control group.

Binge drinking carries a special risk "The pattern of alcohol consumption that poses the greatest risk of unwanted impairment is binge drinking with a high weekly intake" (on average 60 grams of alcohol per day), according to the researchers. Functional neurological failures in the offspring are the most common consequence of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Since the children affected often have no physical impairments, this damage from prenatal alcohol exposure often goes undetected, Kuehn and Aros continue. Numerous affected children with neurological problems would be misdiagnosed.

ADHD and cognitive impairments due to prenatal alcohol exposure The extent to which alcohol consumption during pregnancy can have a far-reaching effect is also based on a study by the research team led by Edward Riley from the Institute of Psychology, also published in the journal "Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research" from San Diego State University in California. Accordingly, prenatal alcohol exposure later in life leads not only to increased attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD) and other behavioral problems, but also to impaired cognitive performance. This effect could not be completely remedied by positive influences later in life, Riley and colleagues report. The slowed cognitive receptivity manifests itself, for example, in hypoactivity (listlessness) and daydreaming. According to the experts, the children affected also tended to have learning and language problems. Overall, the negative influences of alcohol consumption during pregnancy are so complex that pregnant women should be advised to avoid alcohol altogether. (fp)

Also read about alcohol in pregnancy:
Rich pregnant women drink alcohol more often
Thousands of children with alcohol problems
No alcohol during pregnancy
Pregnancy: No alcohol is required

Author and source information

Video: Living with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome


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