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Maternal alcohol use increases the risk of newborn infections

  • Alcohol abuse is well known to increase the risk of infections in adults.
  • Newborn infants whose mothers reported alcohol use, excessive drinking or smoking during pregnancy were more likely to be diagnosed with an infection than those whose mothers did not.

Despite public-information campaigns and physician advice about alcohol consumption during pregnancy, between 15 and 25 percent of pregnant women continue to drink each month, and five to 10 out of 1,000 pregnant women drink an average of seven or more drinks per week. Most research on the damaging effects of fetal alcohol exposure has been on the developing brain. A study in the June issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research has found that drinking during pregnancy can also increase the risk of infection in newborns.

"Despite the well-publicized risks, there continues to be a significant number of women who drink during pregnancy," said Theresa Gauthier, assistant professor of pediatrics and attending neonatologist at Emory University, and corresponding author for the study. "Some studies say up to 35 percent of premature births involve women who drink during pregnancy. Furthermore, about 50 percent of women drink prior to realizing they are pregnant."

"The population that is in most danger of alcohol and smoking effects on the fetus are women with a low income who are poorly educated," said Thomas Jerrells, professor of pathology and microbiology at the University of Nebraska. "Public-information campaigns are either not understood or ignored. It is also likely that many of these women do not receive the prenatal care that would be appropriate and may only see a doctor when the baby is delivered. This is compounded by the well-known underestimation of alcohol consumption by individuals in studies of alcohol effects."

"Alcohol abuse is well known to increase the risk of infections in adults," added Gauthier. "The major focus of
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14-Jun-2005


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