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Drinking Heavily During Pregnancy Could Cause CNS Issues in Babies: Study

Update Date: Jul 24, 2012 10:42 AM EDT

A latest study warns mothers to be of drinking heavily during pregnancy as the study reveals that it could cause central nervous system abnormalities in children.

The study further reveals that most of the children whose mothers drink during pregnancy do not necessarily develop fetal alcohol syndrome. Diagnosis of this condition requires abnormalities in three areas: facial features, physical growth and the central nervous system.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders are a range of problems which arise in children after they are exposed to alcohol in the womb. The problems could be physical or neurological and may range from being mild to severe, affecting each child differently, explained study corresponding author Dr. Devon Kuehn, a postdoctoral fellow at the U.S. National Institute for Child Health and Human Development.

For the study, Kuehn and her team studied the effects of alcohol on the children of 101 women who consumed at least 4 alcoholic drinks per day during pregnancy in Chile. The children were followed up till the age of 8.

The study findings revealed that 80 percent children of the participants had some or the other abnormality associated with alcohol exposure. Also, CNS abnormalities were found to be the most common among the children. Problems related to CNS included hampered learning, behavior, language or mental function, said Kuehn according to a report in Health Day.

"Other studies have shown that binge drinking may have the greatest risk on children, but we are the first to show binge drinking remains a risk factor even in women drinking heavily every day," Kuehn said in a journal news release.

"It is critical to note that while physical characteristics associated with [fetal alcohol syndrome] were not all that common, over 40 percent of the exposed children had evidence of functional abnormalities," Edward Riley, a professor in the department of psychology at the College of Sciences at San Diego State University, said in the news release.

The study has only established an association between found an association between heavy maternal drinking and children's development; it has not established a cause and effect relationship.

The study appears online July 23 and in the October print issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

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