(HealthDay News) – Binge drinking and total alcohol intake during pregnancy correlate with child abnormalities linked to alcohol exposure.

Devon Kuehn, MD, from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, MD, and colleagues examined the presence of components of fetal alcohol syndrome in a prospective cohort study involving 101 Chilean women, identified during their first prenatal appointment, who consumed at least four drinks/day (exposed) and 101 matched women with no reported alcohol consumption during pregnancy (unexposed). Children were evaluated up to 8.5 years of age.

The researchers identified at least one functional central nervous system abnormality in 44% of exposed children and 13.6% of unexposed. Growth restriction was noted in significantly more exposed than unexposed children (27.2 vs. 12.5%), as was the presence of abnormal facial features (17.3% vs. 1.1%). Only 20.3% of the 59 exposed children with data available to detect at least one abnormality had no abnormalities. Binge drinking from conception to recognition of pregnancy and after recognition of pregnancy correlated significantly with abnormal child outcome (odds ratio, 1.48 and 1.41 per day, respectively). Total number of drinks consumed per week from conception to recognition of pregnancy also correlated significantly with abnormal child outcome (odds ratio, 1.02 per drink; P=0.0009).

“After exposure to heavy alcohol consumption during pregnancy, 80% of children had one or more abnormalities associated with alcohol exposure,” the authors write. “Functional neurologic impairment occurred most frequently and may be the only sign to alert physicians to prenatal alcohol exposure.”

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