Study: Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder affects more children than expected

Why shouldn't pregnant women drink alcohol?

If mothers consume alcohol during pregnancy, this can lead to considerable health problems for the offspring. Researchers have now found that up to 17 percent of children have symptoms of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) because their mothers drank during pregnancy.

In their current joint study, scientists from Bristol University and Cardiff University found that many children suffer from a so-called fetal alcohol spectrum disorder because their mothers drank during pregnancy. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "Preventive Medicine".

What indicates a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder?

The disease is diagnosed based on a number of a child's mental and physical problems, including some distinctive facial features such as a small head, small eyes, and a thin upper lip. The disease can be associated with learning difficulties and mood problems, the experts say.

Alcohol during pregnancy?

So far, it has been estimated that between two and five percent of children in the UK have the disorder due to their mother's alcohol consumption during pregnancy, the authors explain. Alcohol crosses the border to the placenta and the growing baby cannot process the alcohol well, causing damage to the cells in the brain and body. With just over 40 percent, the United Kingdom has one of the highest alcohol consumption rates during pregnancy, which is only exceeded by Ireland, Belarus and Denmark.

Data from almost 13,500 children were evaluated

For the new study, data from nearly 13,500 children born in the 1990s and whose families had joined a large, ongoing study were analyzed. Scientists developed a screening tool to analyze the data and assess whether children born to a woman who had drunk alcohol during pregnancy had symptoms of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

How many mothers drank alcohol during pregnancy?

The experts found that 79 percent of mothers had drunk alcohol during pregnancy. Between six and 17 percent of the children in the study showed symptoms of FASD, depending on the exact way in which the doctors performed the screening. The study found high rates of prenatal alcohol consumption and FASD-related symptoms suggest that FASD is likely to be a major public health problem in the UK.

Women shouldn't panic right away

Many women drank before they even knew they were pregnant. However, panic is inappropriate here. Otherwise, overestimating or distorting the risk could result in some women considering ending a desired pregnancy or spending the pregnancy feeling guilty and anxious. (as)

Author and source information

Video: Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: In The Classroom (January 2022).