Maternal Binge Drinking Tied to Childhood Problems: Risk of Behavior Problems Is 2.5 Times Higher for Bingers' Babies Than for Those Exposed to Less

By Sullivan, Michele G. | Clinical Psychiatry News, April 2004 | Go to article overview

Maternal Binge Drinking Tied to Childhood Problems: Risk of Behavior Problems Is 2.5 Times Higher for Bingers' Babies Than for Those Exposed to Less


Sullivan, Michele G., Clinical Psychiatry News


NEW ORLEANS -- Binge drinking during pregnancy, but not the total amount of alcohol consumed, doubles the risk of mental retardation and delinquent behavior in children, Beth Nordstrom, Ph.D., reported in a series of posters at the annual meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine.

The findings underscore the importance of assessing both the pattern and the amount of prenatal alcohol consumption, said Dr. Nordstrom, now of East Tennessee State University, Johnson City. The studies of approximately 500 first graders were conducted by a research group at Wayne State University in Detroit headed by Dr. Virginia Delaney-Black.

"The message is, the most dangerous type of drinking a pregnant woman can engage in is having multiple drinks on occasion," Dr. Nordstrom said in an interview.

The study group consisted of black first graders (aged 6-7 years old) living in Detroit. All of the children were singletons born to women not known to be HIV-positive; their mothers had received prenatal care at the Wayne State University maternity clinic and were interviewed at the university's fetal alcohol research center.

Each woman was questioned extensively about substance abuse. Prenatal alcohol exposure was identified at each visit by using a 14-day recall of consumption. The researchers calculated both the number of ounces of absolute alcohol consumed per day, averaged across the pregnancy, and the pattern of drinking: either five or more drinks at least once every 2 weeks, or smaller amounts.

The research group performed follow-up intelligence testing on 537 of the children. Performance total IQ and verbal IQ were assessed with the complete Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence.

After controlling for prenatal exposure to cigarettes and cocaine, and postnatal factors of socioeconomic status, violence exposure, and quality of the home environment, the amount of prenatal alcohol exposure was not significantly associated with verbal or performance IQ. …

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