Alcohol. It’s never safe for developing babies, but a new study suggests that alcohol does the most damage during late in the first trimester. The new study, published in the journal, Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, makes some very surprising conclusions.
The study found that during the second half of the first trimester, every one drink per day increase in alcohol intake raises the odds of certain physical abnormalities associated with fetal alcohol syndrome.
Babies are 25 percent more likely to have abnormally-shaped lips, 12 percent more likely to have a smaller than normal head, and 16 percent more likely to have a low birth weight. However, the number of drinks during the third trimester seemed to only affect birth weight above anything else.
To conduct the study, Dr. Christina Chambers of the University of California San Diego and her research team recruited 992 pregnant women who called a California help line that answers questions on substances that could be harmful during pregnancy.
The women called the help line between 1978 and 2009, and they were also asked to participate in a follow-up study where they were asked about their alcohol consumption throughout their pregnancy and their infants were screened with a full physical exam. The doctors who did these physicals did not know beforehand which babies were exposed to alcohol during pregnancy.
The doctors concluded that most of the babies who had neurological problems or some sort of birth defects, or presence of symptoms associated with fetal alcohol syndrome, were the babies who were exposed to alcohol during pregnancy.
The researchers say that even though they found some new information during this study, for the most part, things remain the same when it comes to alcohol use during pregnancy. Dr. Christina Chambers said, “this supports the surgeon general’s recommendation that drinking be avoided entirely.”
She added that there’s no known threshold below which alcohol is safe. Of course, every woman’s risk of having a baby with fetal alcohol syndrome is different. You have many different things to take into consideration, such as body fat levels, genes, diet, and other environmental exposures.
Of course, when you are dealing with a personal and controversial topic such as alcohol or drug use during pregnancy, women have to be trusted to self report, which doesn’t always equal accuracy. Sometimes women do not tell the truth when it comes to things like this that they think that they might possibly be negatively judged for. This research is very interesting, but there is still much more research to be done.