Way More Babies are Affected by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Than We Originally Thought

While it seems to be common knowledge that drinking while pregnant is unwise, many children are harmed by the effects of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, reported CNN. Older studies suggest that about 1 in 100 babies are harmed from alcohol, but in a new study, they are now realizing how inaccurate those numbers are. More recently, about 1 in 10 or 20 are found to have disorders caused by drinking.

The new study was just published in the Journal of American Medical Association. They look at the study from a couple different angles, having more conservative numbers with 1 in 20 affected, but a new approach suggests 1 in 10. According to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many disorders can be caused by maternal drinking such as intellectual disabilities, unusual growth patterns, motor skill dysfunction, sensitivity to sound, as well as behavioral problems. To learn more about fetal alcohol syndrome, click here.
A professor involved in the study, Christina Chambers, believes that previous studies were very much underestimated and that people were accepting the 1 in 100 ratio too commonly. Yet, while the new study suggests otherwise, Susan Astley from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Diagnostic and Prevention Network believes those numbers are inaccurate and that more research needs to be conducted.

Astley also shares that it’s a difficult study to conduct as it’s hard to know for certain whether a child’s parents were indeed drinkers or not. Getting willing participants who admit to drinking when pregnant, as well as open to hearing if there child’s defects were caused by that, are incredibly difficult to find. Many people choose not to participate in the study, and that may be the group that poses the most risk to their children.

While it’s hard to study, women still want to know: how much they can drink until it affects the fetus? This is an answer that still hasn’t been discovered. The American Academy of Pediatrics firmly support no drinking at all during maternal days, yet other studies suggest that light drinking would not necessarily be harmful.

While it’s easy to cast judgement and attribute this to irresponsible behavior while pregnant, there are complicating factors. About half of US pregnancies are unplanned, and even when they are planned, the women usually don’t realize they’re pregnant at the beginning. When a woman doesn’t realize she’s pregnant, she may not change her drinking behaviors early on, and unknowingly harm the fetus.

Both Chambers and Astley believe that more research needs to be conducted. A better approach is needed regarding this taboo topic that may be undermining the health of many children.

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