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Go Ask Mom

Study: Even an occasional alcoholic drink while pregnant could change baby's facial development

Posted June 14

Considering a sip of alcohol even though you're pregnant? A new study reported in JAMA Pediatrics this month suggests you might want to think twice before you drink.

The study, which comes from the Murdoch Children's Research Institute in Australia, found that even an occasional adult beverage during pregnancy can affect a baby's facial development. According to the study, it's not clear whether that twice a month glass of wine could also lead to cognitive issues.

"We were surprised to see that these comparatively low levels of alcohol do have a subtle impact and our findings support national recommendations to abstain from drinking alcohol in pregnancy," said Jane Halliday with the Murdoch Children's Research Institute in an article on Medical News Today.

Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there is "no known safe amount of alcohol use during pregnancy or while trying to get pregnant."

"There is also no safe time during pregnancy to drink," the agency says. "All types of alcohol are equally harmful, including all wines and beer. When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, so does her baby."

Alcohol can pass from the mother's blood to the baby through the umbilical cord. Drinking can cause miscarriage, stillbirth and other disabilities, according to the CDC. That includes fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, with characteristics that include abnormal facial features and a small head size.

The study included 415 children born in Australia between 2011 and 2014. According to the study, there was a "consistent association" between facial shape and prenatal alcohol exposure "at almost any level regardless of whether exposure occurred only in the first trimester or throughout pregnancy."

Researchers found the main differences in the nose, lips and eyes, including a shortening of the nose and an upturned nose tip.

The conclusion: "Prenatal alcohol exposure, even at low levels, can influence craniofacial development. Although the clinical significance of these findings is yet to be determined, they support the conclusion that for women who are or may become pregnant, avoiding alcohol is the safest option."

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