Women who are pregnant should abstain from alcohol completely, according to a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The report, “Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders,” in the November 2015 issue of Pediatrics (published online on Monday), said prenatal exposure to alcohol is the leading preventable cause of birth defects and intellectual and neurodevelopmental disabilities in children. The report advises avoiding drinking in all three trimesters. Some studies have found that a moderate amount of alcohol during pregnancy is not linked to cognitive or behavioral problems.
According to the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking, nearly every country's medical guidelines advise against drinking during pregnancy. Only Italy and the United Kingdom still recommend reduced alcohol consumption, as opposed to abstention.
In the U.S., the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also advise pregnant women not to consume alcohol.
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) is as term used to describe the range of effects that can occur in someone whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. Neurocognitive and behavioral problems from prenatal alcohol exposure are lifelong, but early recognition, diagnosis and therapy for any FASD condition can improve a child's health.
"Even though fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are the most commonly identifiable causes of developmental delays and intellectual disabilities, they remain significantly under-recognized," said Dr. Janet F. Williams, one of the report's lead authors.
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy increases the risk the baby could have multiple problems, including trouble with hearing and vision, and with the heart, bones and kidneys, the report said. Children of mothers who drank while pregnant were also more likely to have neurodevelopment issues such as troubles with abstract reasoning, information processing, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
Women who drank in their first trimester were 12 times more likely to have a child with those issues, compared to women who didn't drink at all, according to the report. First- and second-trimester drinking increased the risk 61 times, and women who drank during all trimesters increased the risk by a factor of 65.
"The research suggests that the smartest choice for women who are pregnant is to just abstain from alcohol completely," said Williams.