Looking at the overall pattern of alcohol consumption during pregnancy is better at predicting problems in the offspring than are individual alcohol-related risk factors, researchers have found.
“Our research showed that a metric of drinking which included many individual alcohol consumption measures better predicted poorer child performance,” Dr. Lisa M. Chiodo from Wayne State University in Detroit told Reuters Health.
Based on the results, it would be useful for doctors to evaluate “more than one of the several reliable and valid measures of drinking that are available to more thoroughly assess risk during pregnancy,” she added.
An article describing the study is currently available online and will be published in the April issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
Chiodo and her colleagues constructed a simple ‘yes/no’ metric of risky prenatal alcohol use, based on information from well-validated individual measures and standard screening tools. They tested the metric in a sample of 75 African American mothers and their 4- to 5-year-old offspring.
The mothers responded to questions assessing how much and how often they drank alcohol around the time they conceived and during pregnancy, and the children underwent testing of their IQ, attention, memory, visual-motor function, fine motor skills, and behavior.
The metric identified more than 62 percent of the mothers as drinking at risky levels - 23 percent more than the individual measures of risky drinking identified, the team found.
“We had good reason to think that risk drinking was more common than thought,” Chiodo noted in a written statement, “so detecting more risk drinkers was not that surprising.”
“The real surprise,” she said, “was how successful the metric was in predicting deficits and problems in the children. In fact, our metric predicted poor child cognition and behavior problems better than any of the individual measures of maternal alcohol consumption or screens for problem drinking alone.”
SOURCE: Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, online February 2009.