A baby’s first stool may indicate that the child could have difficulty in cognitive development, new research from the Case Western Reserve University Project Newborn has shown. Findings from the study are published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Researchers set out to determine if there was a connection between fatty acid ethyl ester (FAEE) levels and their cognitive development during childhood and adolescence. Meeyoung O.Min, PhD, the study’s lead researcher, noted that FAEE can serve as a marker for fetal alcohol exposure and future developmental issues. Early intervention can help reduce the effects later, she added.

In the study, study authors analyzed meconium of 216 babies for their FAEE levels. They were then given intelligence tests at age 9, 11, and 15. Data showed there was a link between those with high FAEE levels at birth and lower IQ scores. They concluded that high levels of FAEE found in the meconium from the mother’s alcohol use during pregnancy can signal clinicians that a child is at risk for future difficulties with intelligence and reasoning.

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Because prenatal alcohol exposure is often missed, clinical biomarkers are critical to detect neonates exposed to alcohol, regardless of the mother’s report of alcohol use during pregnancy, Dr. Min reported. This study was conducted as part of the ongoing Project Newborn study, a project funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National institute on Drug Abuse. This research was among the first to explore the association between FAEEs in meconium and cognitive development through childhood and adolescence.

For more information visit Case.edu.