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Drinking before pregnancy may affect children

Monday August 11th, 2014

A woman's drinking behaviour before pregnancy is linked to behaviour problems in their toddlers, according to a Norwegian study.

Exposure to alcohol in the womb can sometimes affect the foetus' growing brain. Now, the potential risk linked to pre-pregnancy drinking patterns has been investigated as part of a long-term study.

The MoBa study is the largest birth cohort study to date, involving more than 109,000 children, 91,000 mothers and 71,700 fathers. Questionnaires were completed by 56,682 mothers of 18-month-olds and 46,756 of these women when their child was three years old.

Results suggest that "risk drinking" before pregnancy increases the risk of early behaviour problems among children, say the researchers, led by Dr Ann Kristin Knudsen of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Norway. Risk drinking was described as using alcohol "in a way that increases the risk of harmful consequences for the user or others, physically or mentally". It can include drinking patterns such as drinking alone, or drinking at inappropriate times such as in the morning.

Children whose mothers drank in this way before pregnancy had a higher rate of "internalising" behavioural problems such as anxiety, inhibition, withdrawal or depression, and "externalising" behaviour such as restlessness, defiance and fighting.

Dr Knudsen said: "This increased risk for behavioural problems in the child is probably not due to the risk drinking per se, but rather to the general mental health and lifestyle of some of the mothers. Risk drinking behaviour before pregnancy may indicate that these families could need closer follow-up and support during the early years of the child's life."

Details appear in the European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry journal.

Knudsen, A. K. et al. Maternal pre-pregnancy risk drinking and toddler behaviour problems: the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study. European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 23 July 2014 doi: 10.1007/s00787-014-0588-x

Tags: Child Health | Drug & Alcohol Abuse | Europe | Nursing & Midwifery | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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