Researchers at Erasmus medical centre in Rotterdam have found that drinking alcohol in the months before getting pregnant may alter the shape of the baby’s face, which could potentially indicate underlying development issues.
The researchers used AI to analyse 3D images of children’s faces at the age of nine and 13 and compared them to information about their mother’s alcohol consumption collected during their pregnancy.
They found children whose mothers had drunk as little as one glass a week before getting pregnant were more likely to have a turned-up nose tip or a shortened nose or a turned-out chin or turned in lower eyelids.
The more the mothers drank, the greater the changes were, the researchers found, and women who continued to drink had an increased risk of having a child with these features.
‘The association between low levels of alcohol and children’s facial shape has been reported previously, but our study found an association at a much lower dose of exposure,’ the researchers said.
The results, published in the journal Human Reproduction, were visible for children up to the age of nine but there was no significant link when they reached 13, suggesting environmental issues or growth patterns had obscured the changes.
Nevertheless, children whose mothers drink while pregnant are known to develop neuro-behavioral problems and alcohol can impact on cognitive development, resulting in psychological and behavioral problems, the researchers point out.
‘Our study suggests that women who are pregnant or want to become pregnant soon should quit alcohol consumption several months before conception and completely during pregnancy to avoid adverse health outcomes in their offspring,’ the researchers said.
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