Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can lead to low birth weight and poor cognitive function, a new study, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, has revealed.
A team of researchers from the University of Bristol investigated the impact of alcohol consumption on the child during pregnancy. They analyzed data from 23 published studies on drinking during pregnancy and came to the conclusion.
Child's cognitive abilities may be affected
Study lead author, Luisa Zuccolo, from in the UK said: "The body of evidence for the harm that alcohol can do to children before they are born is growing, and our review is the first to look at the full range of studies on the issue. Our work confirms the current scientific consensus: that consuming alcohol during pregnancy can affect one's child's cognitive abilities later in life, including their education. It might also lead to lower birth weight."
In order to complete the study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and the Medical Research Council (MRC), the scientists combined results from very different study designs for the first time.
The research methods included traditional studies, including randomized controlled trials, alongside alternative strategies such as comparing children in the same families whose mothers cut down or increased their alcohol use between pregnancies, and a genetic marker-based approach, "Mendelian randomization".
The researchers said previous studies on the subject had been through "observational" research, where participants are already exposed to a risk factor and researchers do not try to change who is or is not exposed. All the studies that were included in the review tried to compare with groups of people, who were only different in terms of exposure to alcohol during pregnancy.
According to the researchers, this is as close as it gets to what would be achieved in an experiment. The experts said that the review was comprehensive, but it was limited in its ability to establish how much alcohol leads to these negative outcomes. However, the researchers said that women should continue to be advised to refrain from consuming alcohol during pregnancy.