Individuals whose mothers drink three or more glasses of alcohol at any one occasion in early pregnancy have an increased risk of developing alcohol disorders by 21 years of age, according to a report in the September issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
Exposure to maternal drinking during early childhood has been associated with difficulties in thinking, learning and memory, as well as mental and behavioral problems. However, few studies have examined the link between drinking during pregnancy and a child's later risk for alcohol dependence and other disorders, according to background information in the article. Animal studies have provided extensive evidence of a link between exposure to alcohol before birth and early acceptance of alcohol. "Similar results replicated in human studies would carry considerable implications for public health intervention," the authors write. "First, such studies would suggest that even small quantities of alcohol exposure, if consumed in a single session, may cause in utero neurodevelopmental changes that in turn may lead to the early onset of alcohol disorder in youth. Second, they would provide support for the role of a biological origin of alcohol disorders."
Rosa Alati, Ph.D., from The University of Queensland, Herston, Australia, and colleagues explored whether maternal exposure to alcohol during pregnancy increased a child's risk of developing alcohol disorders in 2,138 participants who were followed from birth to age 21. A group of 7,223 mothers was originally interviewed at their first prenatal physician visit, between 1981 and 1984 in Brisbane, Australia. The mothers and children were assessed at birth and again 6 months and 5, 14, and 21 years later. Before pregnancy, in early (first 18 weeks) and late (last three months) pregnancy, and when their children were age 5 and 14, the mothers were asked how often they drank alcohol and the number of drinks co
Contact: Rosa Alati, Ph.D.
JAMA and Archives Journals