Light to moderate drinking during pregnancy can affect adolescent growth

  • Children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) commonly have growth deficits.
  • Growth deficits also exist among children prenatally exposed to alcohol but without FAS.
  • Researchers have found significant growth deficits among non-FAS children 14 years after birth.
  • The deficits have a dose-response relation to gestational exposure, and are evident at consumption levels less than one drink per day.

Growth deficits are common among children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), affecting their height, weight, and head circumference. Growth deficits have also been found among offspring exposed to alcohol during gestation but who have not developed FAS. Studies have, however, differed in this finding. Furthermore, few studies have followed offspring who were prenatally exposed to alcohol beyond their early and middle childhoods. A study in the October issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research examines the effects of alcohol exposure during gestation on the size of non-FAS offspring at 14 years of age.

"The Maternal Health Practices and Child Development Project began in 1982," said Nancy L. Day, professor of psychiatry and epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and lead author of the study. "Its purpose has been to study the effects of prenatal exposure to alcohol, marijuana, tobacco, and other illicit drugs on the growth and development of the offspring. At numerous intervals, we have measured demographic status, the psychological, social, and household environment, maternal and paternal substance use, and substance use of the male partner in the household. We have also assessed the children's cognitive, behavioral, academic, and physical status. Furthermore, at ages 10, 14, and 16, we have additional measures of the children's pubertal maturity, neuropsychological status, cognitive and behavioral development, affect, academic performance, psychiatric status, delinquent behavio


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