Binge drinking in pregnancy ups kids’ seizure risk

Binge drinking during a specific period of pregnancy may place children at increased risk for seizure disorders.

Among more than 80,000 Danish-born children followed for up to 8 years, Dr. Yuelian Sun and colleagues found nearly 1.4-fold increased risk for seizure disorders among children of mothers who reported binge drinking when 11 to 16 weeks pregnant.

Sun, of the University of Aarhus in Denmark, and colleagues also found more than 3-fold increased risk for seizures occurring in the first 28 days of life among children of mothers who binged on alcoholic drinks during this specific period of pregnancy.

But this long-term assessment also suggests “women who drink low levels of alcohol during pregnancy had children with no increased risk of epilepsy,” Sun and colleagues report in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

The study, which included 80,526 pregnant women in the Danish National Birth Cohort and their offspring born between 1996 and 2002, categorized binge drinking as 5 or more servings of beer, wine, or spirits in any one sitting.

“Animal studies have shown even short alcohol exposures during vulnerable time periods of prenatal brain growth can affect brain development,” Sun told Reuters Health.

This knowledge, combined with the known risk for fetal alcohol syndrome and epilepsy among children of mothers who drink large quantities of alcohol throughout pregnancy, led Sun’s group to examine the association between seizure disorders in children and binge drinking during pregnancy.

Self-reports of alcohol drinking during pregnancy showed nearly 45 percent of the women consumed at least half an alcoholic drink each week, and 26 percent reported at least one binge drinking episode while pregnant.

When assessed as a whole, the investigators found no association between binge drinking in pregnancy and national hospital record data on the children’s seizure disorders up to about 8 years of age.

The association between children’s increased risk for seizure disorders and their mother’s binge drinking while pregnant was only obvious when the investigators considered the timing of the mother’s binge drinking.

Sun and colleagues suggest further investigations consider the timing of drinking during pregnancy when assessing similar associations in other populations of mothers and their offspring.

SOURCE: American Journal of Epidemiology, February 2009

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