The Alarming Consequences of Binge Drinking During Pregnancy

With bars, pubs and clubs now playing a pivotal role in modern day socialisation, it seems to have become the norm to go out with friends and have a few drinks. With many establishments now using cheap offers and ‘happy hours’ to draw customers in, it seems no surprise that binge drinking has become such a problem in recent times, even in expectant mothers.

Despite the risks associated with alcohol and binge drinking during pregnancy and the damage it can do to a developing foetus, some expectant mothers still continue to do so. A healthy baby can be born with seemingly no adverse health affects but is that really the case?

An extensive study, led by scientists from the University of Nottingham, has found that pregnant women who partake in binge drinking during their pregnancy increase the risk of mental health problems in their child. Just as much as one binge drinking event during the pregnancy, considered as consuming more than four units of alcohol in one sitting, is enough to threaten the future of the developing baby.

The study, involving more than 4000 participants, was undertaken over a substantial period of time; primarily taking into account the mother’s drinking behaviour at weeks 18 and 32 of the pregnancy. Her drinking behaviour was also noted when the child was five years old. After this time, the attention turned from the mother to the mental ability of the child.

Once the child had reached the age of 11, teachers and parents were asked to undertake a questionnaire, evaluating the mental health of each child involved with the study.  Data regarding academic ability of each child was generated by using their school exam results which tested ability in mathematics, English and science.

The findings of the study indicated that mothers who participated in binge drinking during their pregnancy put their child at a higher risk of inattention, hyperactivity and a lower academic ability at 11 years old. Children whose mother’s binged on alcohol once they had reached five years old but not during pregnancy were not affected in the same way, indicating that the risks of alcohol exposure occur in the womb.

The findings highlight the need for more guidance in relation to alcohol consumption during pregnancy and indicate the consequential effects one booze filled night can have on the entire lifetime of a child.

Read the full paper: Pre-natal exposure to binge pattern of alcohol consumption: mental health and learning outcomes at age 11


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Amy Moore

Amy is currently studying for a Masters in Science Communication. Follow her on twitter @_Amy_Moore91

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