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Drinking During Pregnancy Lowers Child's IQ

Update Date: Nov 15, 2012 07:05 AM EST

A recent study found that the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy, even in moderate levels, has a direct effect on the child's IQ level.

Researchers from the universities of Oxford and Bristol looked into the effect of consuming alcohol while pregnant and found that it directly affects the IQ level of the unborn child. During the study, scientists looked at the IQ scores of 4,000 children as well as recordings of the alcohol intake of their mothers.  The findings reinforced the advice of not consuming alcohol while pregnant.

Researchers say that though the effect may be small, it is better to take precaution and avoid alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

"Even at levels of alcohol consumption which are normally considered to be harmless, we can detect differences in childhood IQ which are dependent on the ability of the foetus to clear this alcohol," Sarah Lewis of Bristol University, who led the study, said.

"This is evidence that even at these moderate levels, alcohol is influencing foetal brain development."

Toni Denholme from Newcastle, who has one child, said doctors gave her mixed messages on drinking during pregnancy.

"The doctors kind of said it was OK to drink in moderation, it wasn't as harmful as smoking or anything, but ideally not to, but there wasn't a 'don't, definitely don't drink'."

Gwen Jones, who is expecting her first child in April, said: "There's so much ambiguous advice out there what you can do what you can't do what you should and shouldn't do, so something that comes out medically and says 'definitely do not do it, it's going to harm your child', I think is brilliant."

Since the individual genetic variations that people have in their DNA are not connected to lifestyle and social factors, this kind of study avoids potential complications.

"This is a complex study but the message is simple, even moderate amounts of alcohol during pregnancy can have an effect on future child intelligence," said Ron Gray of Oxford University, who was a part of Lewis' team.

David Nutt, a professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London, said, "Even though the IQ effects are small, if at all possible women should avoid ethanol in pregnancy as it's a known toxin."

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