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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Alcohol and Pregnancy

Anyone who works in child protection knows that Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is a prevalent and devastating disorder that brings life long implications. The effects can range from profound to minor. Much depends upon what was consumed in what quantity during which periods of the pregnancy.

There are many things that can be toxic to a foetus which can include alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.

A recently published longitudinal study has suggested that minor amount of alcohol are not harmful to the foetus or the child as she develops. A study of more than 10,000 children followed to age 7 found that there were no indications of increased odds for mental or cognitive deficits. Light drinking was defined as 1-2 drinks per week.

What the study did not do is identify what level of alcohol consumption was safe and that which was not safe. That, of course, is a defining issue.

The challenge with this study is that, while it truly helps to advance the debate, it can easily be misinterpreted. It can be seen as a license to drink in pregnancy. While this is an impressive study, it still leaves many question unanswered.

The advice still should be to not drink in pregnancy but to also not encourage panic when a mother announces that she had a drink at a party. In addition, we should likely be paying a lot of attention to the issue of smoking in pregnancy as well.

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