Alcohol leads to stunted growth in babies: Study

Washington: Expectant mothers beware! Women who drink a large glass of wine a day during pregnancy stunt their baby`s growth upto the age of nine years, a new research has found.

Scientists at Harvard Medical School found pregnant women who had three units of alcohol a day had babies with a lower height, weight and head circumference than light or non-drinkers.

These effects lasted well past infancy and into childhood, said the study one of the longest-running into the effects of alcohol on the unborn child.

Researchers tested a group of 85 pregnant women, defined as "heavy drinkers", who consumed the equivalent of at least a large (250ml) glass of wine a day.

This group was compared with a group of 63 women from the same prenatal clinic, who either did not drink at all or drank `lightly` defined as less than one unit a day and no binging.

"We found that children born to women who drank heavily during pregnancy had reductions in weight, height, and head circumference, an indicator of brain growth." Lead author Dr Robert Carter said.

"This alcohol-related growth restriction was present in early infancy and persisted through to nine years of age." said Carter.

"These effects may be detrimental to the children as growth deficits have been shown to be related to other health problems, such as lower IQ," he said.

Children born to heavy drinkers had a four times higher chance of a low birth weight and were significantly lighter at a year old.

By the age of five, the children`s weight in relation to their height was normal, but they were six times as likely to be anaemic as the children of non-drinking mothers, regardless of their diet.

Those with iron deficiency anaemia at birth were more likely to have stunted growth and Carter said it seemed to be a direct effect of alcohol exposure in the womb.

This study is the first to examine the effects of heavy PAE on growth in a single cohort over time using a more rigorous single statistical model with repeated measures for each outcome.


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