12 August 2019 In Pregnant Women

It is common knowledge that alcohol consumption during pregnancy would cause cognitive impairment in children. However, recent works suggested that the risk of drinking during pregnancy may have been exaggerated. It is critical to determine whether and up to which amount the consumption of alcohol will affect the cognitive development of children. We evaluate time-varying functional connectivity using magnetoencephalogram data from somatosensory evoked response experiments for 19 teenage subjects with prenatal alcohol exposure and 21 healthy control teenage subjects using a new time-varying connectivity approach, combining renormalised partial directed coherence with state space modeling. Children exposed to alcohol prenatally are at risk of developing a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) characterized by cerebral connectivity deficiency and impaired cognitive abilities. Through a comparison study of teenage subjects exposed to alcohol prenatally with healthy control subjects, we establish that the inter-hemispheric connectivity is deficient for the former, which may lead to disruption in the cortical inter-hemispheric connectivity and deficits in higher order cognitive functions as measured by an IQ test, for example. We provide quantitative evidence that the disruption is correlated with cognitive deficits. These findings could lead to a novel, highly sensitive biomarker for FASD and support a recommendation of no safe amount of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

24 June 2019 In Pregnant Women

BACKGROUND: Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) typically is observed among individuals with high prenatal alcohol exposures (PAE), but exposure histories obtained in clinical diagnostic settings are often inaccurate. The present analysis used the Lifestyle During Pregnancy Study (LDPS) to assess the potential effects of low-to-moderate average weekly alcohol consumption and binge drinking in early pregnancy on facial features associated with FAS among children 5 years of age.

METHODS: The analysis is a prospective follow-up study of 670 women and their children sampled from the LDPS cohort based on maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy. The 4-Digit Code FAS Facial Photographic Analysis Software was used to measure the magnitude of expression of the 3 diagnostic facial features of FAS from standardized digital photographs. Logistic regression was used to estimate the odds of presenting with the FAS/partial fetal alcohol syndrome (PFAS) facial phenotypes relative to different patterns of prenatal alcohol exposure.

RESULTS: Ten children presented with the FAS/PFAS facial phenotypes. None of the children sampled met the central nervous system (CNS) criteria for FAS or PFAS at age 5 years. All remained at risk for PFAS since some types of CNS dysfunction associated with this diagnosis may only be assessed at older ages. The FAS/PFAS facial phenotypes were 8.5-fold more likely among children exposed to an average of 1 to 4 drinks/wk and 2.5-fold more likely among children with a single binge exposure in gestational weeks 3 to 4 compared to children with no such exposures. The magnitude of expression of the FAS facial phenotype was significantly correlated with all other diagnostic features of FAS: growth deficiency, microcephaly, and measures of CNS dysfunction.

CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that low-to-moderate levels of PAE or isolated binge exposures may place some fetuses at risk for FAS/PFAS. Thus, conservative advice is still for women to abstain from alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

25 January 2019 In Pregnant Women

AIM: This paper systematically reviews the literature on the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on early child development from birth to 5 years with the aim to synthesize the developmental outcomes associated with prenatal alcohol exposure, and inform further research to improve our knowledge of the manifestations of prenatal alcohol exposure.

METHODS: Electronic databases (MEDLINE, Psych INFO, and Psych ARTICLES) were searched to find papers on the developmental outcomes of prenatal alcohol exposure in neonates, infants and toddlers and pre-school aged children. Studies were selected based on participants self-reporting alcohol consumption during pregnancy (either prospectively or retrospectively) and/or children being diagnosed with FASD based on a standardized assessment that includes a dysmorphology examination. The search was limited to peer-reviewed, English language studies involving human subjects, up to 5.5 years old.

RESULTS: Out of the 1,684 titles screened, a total of 71 papers were identified as relevant and included in this review. The majority of studies were prospective longitudinal studies. A range of assessment modalities (or tools) was used to determine neurodevelopmental outcomes of prenatal exposure to alcohol in the age group under review, the most frequently described being the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development (BSID) (n = 19). Studies varied in terms of the dose, frequency, and timing of alcohol consumption during pregnancy and methodology used to assess alcohol consumption. Findings demonstrate extensive evidence for poor global developmental outcomes in children prenatally exposed to alcohol, particularly with moderate to severe levels of prenatal alcohol exposure.

CONCLUSION: The outcomes related to lower levels of prenatal alcohol exposure as well as outcomes in specific developmental domains, are poorly understood. Further research should aim to clarify the more subtle or less easily measurable manifestations of prenatal alcohol exposure on early development when the potential for greatest impact of interventions is highest.

25 January 2019 In Pregnant Women

OBJECTIVES: Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) is a worldwide problem. Maternal alcohol consumption is an important risk factor for FASD. It remains unknown which alcohol consumption patterns most strongly predict FASD. The objective of this study was to identify these.

DESIGN: Systematic literature review.

METHODS: We searched in PubMed, PsychINFO, PsycARTICLES, ERIC, CINAHL, Embase and MEDLINE up to August 2018. The query consisted of keywords and their synonyms related to FASD, pregnancy and behaviour. Studies were excluded when not published in English, were reviews or involved non-human subjects. Substantial heterogeneity precluded aggregation or meta-analysis of the data. Instead, data were qualitatively inspected.

RESULTS: In total, 21 studies were eligible for further data analysis. All studies that measured both maternal alcohol drinking behaviours and FASD reported retrospective data on maternal drinking patterns, employing both continuous and categorical measures and exhibiting substantial heterogeneity in measures of alcohol consumption (eg, timing of exposure, quantification of alcohol measure and definition of a standard drink). Study quality improved over time and appeared higher for studies based on active case ascertainment, especially when conducted in schools and when behaviour was assessed through interviews.

CONCLUSIONS: We aimed to identify specific maternal drinking behaviour(s) related to FASD. The state of the literature precludes such conclusions. Evidence-based preventive measures necessitate identifying which prenatal alcohol drinking behaviour(s) are most in need of intervention. Therefore, we formulate three recommendations for future research. First, future studies can optimise the value of the collected dataset through specifying measurements and reporting of maternal drinking behaviours and avoiding categorised measures (nominal or ordinal) whenever possible. Second, samples should not be selected based on FASD status, but instead, FASD status as well as maternal alcohol consumption should both be measured in a general population sample. Finally, we provide 10 reporting guidelines for FASD research.

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