Moderate alcohol consumption during pregnancy is risky too

  • Many people recognize the dangers of binge and heavy consumption of alcohol during pregnancy.
  • New rodent research is the first to show that moderate drinking during pregnancy can also cause both behavioral and physiological deficits.
  • The deficits were found among the rodent equivalent of humans in their mid-20s to late 30s.

Numerous studies have demonstrated the dangers of drinking alcohol during pregnancy, particularly binge and heavy patterns of drinking. However, increasing evidence indicates that moderate drinking during pregnancy may also cause problems, albeit more subtle, long-term cognitive impairments that may not become evident until adolescence and then increase in severity with maturation. A study in the November issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research adds to the latter body of knowledge by providing the first report of combined physiological and behavioral deficits in adult rodent offspring of mothers that consumed alcohol during pregnancy at a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) less than half the level of legal intoxication.

"One of the continuing concerns of investigators in this field is the general public's apathy or skepticism of reports about the dangers of drinking during pregnancy," said Daniel D. Savage, Regents' Professor and Chair of Neurosciences at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, and lead author of the study. "Yet our findings clearly indicate that even low to moderate levels of drinking during pregnancy cause long-lasting alterations in synaptic plasticity and spatial learning in affected offspring. The lowest maternal BAC that produced these effects, 30 mg/dL, is much lower than the BACs that produce birth defects." In general, a 120-pound woman could achieve a 30 mg/dL BAC after consuming two drinks during an hour and a half. "Most of the effects of fetal alcohol exposure reported in the literature occur primarily at BACs ranging from about 120 to 350


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