The researchers found increased risks of orofacial clefts among infants whose mothers reported binge-level drinking of an average of five or more drinks per occasion during the first-trimester compared to non-drinkers. Risk was further increased among women who drank at this level most frequently.
Both animal and human data suggest that it is the dose of alcohol consumed at one time during pregnancy rather than the frequency or total amount over time that matters most. "The greater the blood alcohol concentration, the longer the fetus is exposed. A single binge during a critical period of an infant's development can be harmful," said DeRoo.
"Fortunately, heavy maternal drinking is uncommon in many populations, but the fact that it is happening at all tells us we need to do a better job of letting mothers know about the effects that alcohol can have on their baby's development," said Allen J. Wilcox, M.D., Ph.D., NIEHS researcher and co-author on the paper. In Norway, a separate study found that 25 percent of Norwegian women reported at least one binge drinking episode early during pregnancy.
Alcohol is a recognized teratogen, or an environmental agent that can cause malformations of an embryo or fetus. One of the most severe outcomes of heavy maternal drinking is fetal alcohol syndrome, a lifelong condition that causes physical and mental disabilities, including craniofacial malformations. There has been little research to determine if alcohol consumption is related to oral cleft risk.
|Contact: Robin Mackar|
NIH/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences