Prenatal Alcohol Exposure Linked to Alcohol Disorders

Alcohol disorders by 21 years of age more likely if mothers drank during early pregnancy

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 6 (HealthDay News) -- People whose mothers drank three or more glasses of alcohol on any one occasion early in their pregnancy are more likely to develop alcohol disorders by 21 years of age, according to the results of a study published in the September issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Rosa Alati, Ph.D., from the University of Queensland in Herston, Australia, and colleagues examined the relationship between in utero alcohol exposure and alcohol disorders at 21 years of age in 2,138 mothers and their children. The mothers were interviewed about their alcohol consumption during pregnancy and they and their children were examined at various times up to 21 years. Early pregnancy was defined as the first 18 weeks, while late pregnancy was defined as the last three months of pregnancy.

The research team found that approximately 25 percent of the children had developed alcohol disorders. Children of mothers who drank three or more glasses of alcohol on any one occasion during pregnancy were more likely to develop early-onset (before 18 years of age) alcohol disorders, with those exposed during early pregnancy at higher risk than those exposed during late pregnancy (fully adjusted odds ratio 2.95 and 1.35, respectively). Children exposed to alcohol during early pregnancy were also more likely to develop late-onset (between the ages of 18 and 21 years) alcohol disorders (fully adjusted odds ratio 3.29), according to the study.

"Our results provide support for a biological origin of adult alcohol disorders and suggest that the association is not explained solely by maternal drinking or smoking during childhood and adolescence or other intervening factors," the authors conclude.

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