Prenatal Alcohol Exposure More Dangerous than Previously Thought

It’s no surprise to anyone that consuming alcohol – especially in large quantities – can negatively impact your baby. Not only do you risk a variety of birth defects and conditions such as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, according to some new prenatal research there may be dangers to brain structure as well as metabolism, as well.

In recent years, we’ve seen significant advancements in MRI technology that lets researchers look at exactly what alcohol is doing to the nervous system of a baby whose mother drinks alcohol while she’s pregnant.

One study in Poland looked at 200 children that had been exposed to alcohol during pregnancy. This group was compared to a group of 30 children whose mothers had no alcohol during pregnancy. Using MRI, the researchers looked at the shape and size of a bundle of nerve fibers known as the corpus callosum. This is a group of nerves that facilitate most of the communication between the left and right halves of the brain.

For infants who had been exposed to alcohol prenatally, there was a significant thinning of this cluster of nerves. In some cases, the cluster was not only impaired, but it was completely absent.

These kinds of changes can lead to a number of psychological problems for those children as they get older.

In addition, researchers used a technology known as DWI (diffusion weighted imaging) to look at six other areas of the children’s central nervous system. The children exposed to alcohol had statistically significant increases in diffusion – which means greater neurological disorders and even damage to the brain tissue.

Finally, the researchers used HMRS (hydrogen magnetic resonance spectroscopy) to look at metabolism. The metabolic changes in the alcohol-exposed group were significant in the brain, again reflecting some serious concerns about brain function and brain damage.

This research only solidifies what we already know about drinking during pregnancy: it can cause some significant problems for your child.

So, what do you think? Have you known anyone whose child had fetal alcohol syndrome? What are some ways you can talk to an expectant mother about these dangers?

 

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