For Older Women, Prenatal Alcohol Use Affects Children's Growth

Article excerpt

SANTA BARBARA, CALIF. -- The children of older mothers who drank during pregnancy were shorter and had smaller head circumferences at the ages of 7 and 14 years than other children at those ages, it was reported at the annual meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism.

Children of mothers who were 30 or older at delivery were affected above a threshold of moderate alcohol consumption, defined as about one alcoholic drink a day at the time of conception. Many women reduced their drinking during pregnancy, but the heaviest drinkers reduced their drinking less.

"Even if women reduce their drinking during pregnancy, their early drinking before they realize they are pregnant may have an impact on the infant," said Sandra W. Jacobson, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at Wayne State University in Detroit, a senior author on the study.

"We see effects in infants whose mothers drink as little as one drink/day, on average."

Dr. Jacobson stressed that "average" drinks per day did not reflect the actual drinking patterns among women in the study. Just 1 woman of the 480 in the Detroit Longitudinal Prenatal Alcohol Exposure study actually drank every day.

Many of the others concentrated their drinking on 1 or 2 days a week, in some cases drinking three to four drinks at each session, she explained following the meeting.

Mean alcohol consumption at conception was about two drinks per day in the study of economically disadvantaged African American women and their children.

Mean alcohol intake dropped during pregnancy to a little more than two drinks per week.

Prenatal alcohol exposure was associated with lower birthweight and length in the entire sample of women, even after researchers controlled for smoking and other possible confounders, Dr. Jacobson said.

For mothers over 30 years of age at conception, the repercussions were long lasting.

With a cutoff point of 0. …