Alcohol in pregnancy leads to child behavior problems

Amount and timing of alcohol consumption in pregnancy affects child behaviour in different ways, revealed by Australian researchers.

The new study from Perth’s Telethon Institute for Child Health Research has been published in the international journal Addiction.

Lead author Colleen O’Leary said the analysis was drawn from a random sample of more than 2000 mothers who completed a questionnaire three months after the baby’s delivery, and were then followed up when the child was 2, 5 and 8 years of age.

“Mothers who reported what we would classify as heavy drinking in the first trimester of pregnancy were nearly three times as likely to report that their child suffered with anxiety and/or depression or somatic complaints,” Ms O’Leary said.

“Those who drank moderately during that first trimester were twice as likely to report those types of behavioural issues for their child.

Exposure to moderate or heavy levels of alcohol in late pregnancy increased the risk of aggressive types of behaviours in the child. This research suggests that both the timing and the intensity of alcohol exposure in the womb affect the type of behaviour problems expressed.

In this study low levels of alcohol did not increase the risk of harm to the baby. However, the evidence clearly shows that the risk to the baby increases with increasing amounts consumed.

“It should also be noted that in this study moderate exposure is classified as drinking 3-4 standard drinks per occasion? that’s about two normal glasses of wine?and no more than a bottle of wine drunk over a week.”

Heavy drinking included women who were drinking the equivalent of more than a bottle of wine per week.

Ms O’Leary said health professionals can assist by talking to women of child bearing age about their alcohol consumption and encouraging pregnant women and women planning a pregnancy to abstain from alcohol.

Source: Research Australia, Australia

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