Drinking During Pregnancy Boosts Baby's Infection Risk

It triples the odds, new study finds

WEDNESDAY, June 15, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Mothers who drink during their pregnancy increase their newborn's risk of infection, a new study suggests.

Even after controlling for other risk factors such as poverty, low infant birth weight and maternal smoking, "Excessive alcohol use, especially during the second trimester, increased the risk of newborn infection by more than three times relative to babies whose mothers reported not drinking alcohol in the second trimester," researcher Theresa Gauthier, an assistant professor of pediatrics and attending neonatologist at Emory University, in Atlanta, said in a prepared statement.

The findings appear in the June issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

Gauthier's team studied 872 Atlanta-area mothers and their babies. Mothers were asked about their alcohol and tobacco use just prior to conception and during their pregnancy.

Fifty-one of the infants -- just under 6 percent -- had an infection diagnosed soon after delivery. "Mothers who reported alcohol use, excessive drinking or smoking in pregnancy were more likely to have a newborn diagnosed with an infection than were mothers who reported abstaining from alcohol or cigarettes," Gauthier noted.

The study also found that smoking by women at any time before and during pregnancy increased the risk of newborn infection, and the Atlanta team found that many of the women who drank alcohol while pregnant also smoked.

Because maternal smoking is known to raise a newborn's infection risk, the combination of smoking and drinking "may synergistically affect the developing immune system," Gauthier speculated. "However, our data suggest that maternal alcohol use increases the risk of newborn infections, even if she did not smoke."

More information

The March of Dimes has more about drinking during pregnancy.

SOURCE: Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, June 14, 2005
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