Although deficits in measures of intelligence are well documented among children exposed to high amounts of alcohol during pregnancy, deficits among children prenatally exposed to low-to-moderate amounts of alcohol are much less understood. A study in the June issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research has found that even light to moderate drinking especially during the second trimester is associated with lower IQs in offspring at 10 years of age.
"The impact of heavy prenatal alcohol exposure on IQ ranges from a two- to a seven-point decrease," said Jennifer A. Willford, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and lead author of the study. "IQ is a measure of the child's ability to learn and to survive in his or her environment. It predicts the potential for success in school and in everyday life. Although a small but significant percentage of children are diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) each year, many more children are exposed to alcohol during pregnancy who do not meet criteria for FAS yet experience deficits in growth and cognitive function."
"Intellectual functioning is a good first measure of the potential damaging effects of prenatal alcohol exposure," added Paul D. Connor, clinical director of the Fetal Alcohol and Drug Unit and assistant professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington. "However, mental retardation only characterizes a minority of patients with FAS and Alcohol-Related Neu