Alcohol Bad for Fetal Development Even in Small Doses, Research Finds

Jul 20, 2017

Prenatal exposure to alcohol, even in low doses, may cause a wide spectrum of major problems in fetal brain development, a new study found.

Researchers studying mice found that alcohol exposure during pregnancy can cause a wide and unpredictable range of deficits in fetuses. They think this might be due to differences in how fetal brain cells try to protect against alcohol and other toxins.

These findings may help explain why there is such a wide range of behavioral and learning deficits in babies with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Babies with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders may experience growth retardation, facial abnormalities, and organ damage, including to the brain. Damages to the brain may contribute to lifelong physical, cognitive, behavioral and social challenges.

About 2 and a half percent of West Virginia women report drinking during pregnancy, compared to a national average of 8 percent.

The study was conducted by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the National Institutes of Health.

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from the Benedum Foundation, Charleston Area Medical Center and WVU Medicine.