Children whose mothers engaged in heavy alcohol consumption during pregnancy may have cognitive deficits, even if they do not have the abnormal facial features associated with fetal alcohol syndrome, according to a study funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
To determine the prevalence of individual symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome in children whose mothers consumed large amounts of alcohol during pregnancy, the scientists compared data on 101 pregnant mothers in Chile who drank at least 4 drinks per day with a matched group of 101 mothers who did not drink alcohol during pregnancy (Kuehn D et al. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. doi: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2012.01794.x. [published online July 23, 2012]). They found that 44% of the children born to heavy maternal drinkers had functional central nervous system abnormalities, compared with 13.6% of children who were not exposed to alcohol. Additionally, 27.2% of the exposed children had growth restriction, compared with 12.5% of the control group, and 17.3% of the exposed children had facial abnormalities, compared with 1.1% of the control group. However, one limitation of the study was that data to assess abnormalities were available for only about half of the exposed children.