Ultrasounds Show Mothers' Drinking Shrinks Fetal Brain
Pregnancy and drinking
Routine ultrasounds show that heavy drinkers who continue to imbibe after learning they are pregnant may carry fetuses with reduced skull and brain growth compared to those of abstainers or quitters, says a new study.
Although the alcohol-exposed babies' growth remained within normal range, the findings reveal effects of drinking on the developing human brain. The study will appear in the May issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
"What this tells us is that the earlier you abstain in a pregnancy, the better the outcome," said lead author Nancy Handmaker, a University of New Mexico clinical psychologist with expertise in maternal-fetal health.
Alcohol use during pregnancy is a leading preventable cause of birth defects and developmental disabilities in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder