CLEVELAND – When a mother drinks alcohol during pregnancy her baby is at high risk of developing a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
Now, a new study shows that the rate at which children are impacted by these life-long disabilities may be higher than previously estimated.
Researchers assessed 6,639 first graders in the U.S. for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
They identified a total of 222 children as having a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Only two of these children had been previously diagnosed before the study occurred.
Salena Zanotti, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic did not take part in the study, but said the results show that fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is a problem that all pregnant moms need to know about.
“In past large studies the estimate was ten out of a thousand children may have something in this spectrum, and it’s probably closer to five percent, which is significantly more than what we thought,” she said.
Dr. Zanotti said alcohol can impact a pregnancy at any stage.
In early pregnancy, alcohol can cause heart defects and birth defects, and increases the risk of still birth or miscarriage.
In the later stages of pregnancy alcohol can affect the development of the brain, which can significantly impact a child’s memory, learning abilities and motor abilities.
Dr. Zanotti said many times these cognitive problems do not appear until a child is school aged.
She said the bottom line is that pregnant women need to know that fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is 100 percent preventable and that help is available to those who are struggling with alcohol addiction.
“This is something you’re choosing to ingest and this is something we can stop,” she said. “There are people who have problems with addiction and they need help and guidance to find the resources that are available to them.”