A new study by researchers at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health, shows that pregnant women who binge drink early in their pregnancy increase the likelihood that their babies will be born with oral clefts.
The researchers found that women who consumed an average of five or more drinks per sitting were more than twice as likely than non-drinkers to have an infant with either of the two major infant oral clefts: cleft lip with or without cleft palate, or cleft palate alone. Women who drank at this level on three or more occasions during the first trimester were three times as likely to have infants born with oral clefts.
"These findings reinforce the fact that women should not drink alcohol during pregnancy," said Lisa A. DeRoo, Ph.D., an epidemiologist at NIEHS and author on the study. "Prenatal exposure to alcohol, especially excessive amounts at one time, can adversely affect the fetus and may increase the risk of infant clefts." The causes of clefts are largely unknown, but both genetic predisposition and environmental factors are believed to play a role in their development. The paper appears online today as an advance access publication in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
The population-based study was conducted in Norway, which has one of the highest rates of oral clefts in Europe. The investigators contacted all families of newborn infants born with clefts between 1996 and 2002. The study included 573 mothers who had babies born with cleft lip with or without cleft palate and cleft palate only; as well as 763 mothers randomly selected from all live births in Norway. The average age of the mostly married mothers was 29 years.
Mothers completed a self-administered mailed questionnaire focused heavily on the mother's lifestyle and environmental exposures during her first three months of pregnancy when a baby's facial development takes pla
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NIH/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences