Mums-to-be warned there's NO safe amount of alcohol to drink while pregnant

Mums-to-be warned there's NO safe amount of alcohol to drink while pregnant

April 29, 2019

MUMS-to-be are warned there is no safe amount of alcohol to drink while pregnant.

New research has found that those exposed to alcohol in the womb were more likely to have impaired cognitive issues.

Scientists have long said that boozing can cause foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) – which can include mental, behaviour and learning problems, as well as physical disabilities.

In this latest study, an international team collected data from 19 teenagers known to have prenatal alcohol exposure and 21 healthy teens.

They used an imaging technique called magnetoencephalography (MEG) to look at brain signals and then analysed them using a technique known as Chaos theory.

The findings, published in the Chaos journal by the American Institute of Physics, revealed that subjects whose mothers had consumed alcohol during their pregnancy had impaired connectivity in several areas of the brain.

They found issues with connections in the corpus callosum – the band of brain tissues connecting the left and right halves of the brain.

What are the symptoms of foetal alcohol syndrome?

If a woman drinks alcohol during pregnancy, she risks damaging her baby.

Sometimes this can result in mental and physical problems in the baby, called foetal alcohol syndrome.

This can occur because alcohol in the mother's blood passes to her baby through the placenta.

The baby can't process alcohol as well as the mother can, which means it can damage cells in their brain, spinal cord and other parts of their body, and disrupt their development in the womb.

This can result in the loss of the pregnancy.

Babies that survive may be left with the lifelong problems, including:

  • a head that's smaller than average
  • poor growth – they may be smaller than average at birth, grow slowly as they get older, and be shorter than average as an adult
  • distinctive facial features – such as small eyes, a thin upper lip, and a smooth area between the nose and upper lip, though these may become less noticeable with age
  • movement and co-ordination problems, known as cerebral palsy
  • learning difficulties – such as problems with thinking, speech, social skills, timekeeping, maths or memory
  • mood, attention or behavioural problems – such as autism-like behaviour or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • problems with the liver, kidneys, heart or other organs
  • hearing and vision problems

These problems are permanent, though early treatment and support can help limit their impact on an affected child's life.

Foetal alcohol syndrome is a type of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), the name for all the various problems that can affect children if their mother drinks alcohol in pregnancy.

Source: NHS

Problems in these areas are reported in people with schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis, autism and depression.

Lin Gao, who co-authored the research, said: "This work presents major evidence that children exposed to alcohol prenatally are at risk of suffering from impaired cognitive abilities and other secondary factors.

"Our study … shows that there is no safe amount or safe stages during pregnancy for alcohol consumption."

The study marks one of the first times researchers have been able to quantify the effects of alcohol exposure on the developing brain.

Previous attempts have been hampered by complicated MEG data, which makes it difficult to draw some sort of conclusion.

But this team developed their own sophisticated technique called Cortical Start Spatio-Temporal mutlidipole analysis which could identify areas of the brain which were active when subjects were in the MEG machine.

A study in 2017 found that four in 10 mums in Britain drink during pregnancy.

It put the UK among the top five countries worldwide.

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