New Study Finds Babies Born To Mothers Who Drink Alcohol Heavily May Suffer Permanent Nerve Damage

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Newborns whose mothers drank alcohol heavily during pregnancy had damage to the nerves in the arms and legs, according to a study by researchers at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, one of the National Institutes of Health. The study was conducted in collaboration with researchers at the University of Chile.

The study is the first to examine whether exposure to alcohol before birth affects the developing peripheral nervous system - the nerves in the arms and legs, rather than in the brain or spinal cord. The nerve damage was still present when the children were reexamined at one year of age. The study appears in the March issue of the Journal of Pediatrics.

The NICHD-University of Chile Alcohol and Pregnancy Study compared 17 full-term, newborn infants whose mothers drank heavily during pregnancy to 13 newborns not exposed to alcohol in the womb. All women identified as heavy drinkers were advised that their drinking habits were potentially dangerous to their fetus and were offered help from an alcohol counseling clinic to stop drinking alcohol or to cut down on their drinking.

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The children exposed to alcohol before they were born experienced significant problems in conducting a message through the nerves--both at one month and one year of age. The alcohol-exposed children did not experience any catch-up or improvement in nerve function by the time they reached their first birthday.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recommends that pregnant women not consume any alcohol. Information on the hazards of alcohol use during pregnancy is available at http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochure.htm

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The source of this release is http://www.hhs.gov

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