What you need to know about that fetal alcohol syndrome study

Because every mother—and every fetus—is impacted by alcohol differently, it’s impossible to determine a safe amount.

What you need to know about that fetal alcohol syndrome study

The last thing a parent wants to do is hurt their child, but unfortunately, alcohol consumption during pregnancy is a leading cause of children’s developmental disabilities worldwide. Now, a new study suggests the prevalence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders among American children is greater than previously believed.

According to research published in the the Journal of the American Medical Association, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders may affect as many as one in 20 American children. That’s a huge jump from the previous estimate of one in 100.

Funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the study assessed nearly 3,000 first-graders at public and private schools in four American communities. The children were evaluated for cognitive and behavioral problems associated with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, the umbrella term for a range of neurological and physical impacts caused by exposure to alcohol in the womb.


Researchers also interviewed mothers and close relatives to assess each child’s prenatal alcohol exposure.

The results of the study suggest children living with FASD are often undiagnosed. More than 200 of the first-graders experiencing learning and behavioral challenges fit the criteria for a diagnosis of FASD during the course of the study, but only two of the kids had previously received that diagnosis.

“Estimating the prevalence of FASD in the United States has been complex due to the challenges in identifying prenatally exposed children,” says George F. Koob, Ph.D, the Director of the the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, which funded the research.

“The findings of this study confirm that FASD is a significant public health problem, and strategies to expand screening, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment are needed to address it,” Koob says.

While some controversial studies have suggested light drinking during pregnancy may not be harmful and that red wine may help women conceive quicker, the American Academy of Pediatrics says no amount of alcohol should be considered safe.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in 10 pregnant women reports drinking alcohol despite the CDC warning against it. The CDC recommends even women who are not yet pregnant but are trying to conceive don’t drink any alcohol at all.

As the New York Times notes, experts say that while some evidence suggests the more a mom drinks, the greater the damage will be, in some women even a small amount of alcohol isn't safe. Because every mother—and every fetus—is impacted by alcohol differently, it's impossible to determine a safe amount.

The threshold at which a dose of alcohol impacts a fetus depends on individual metabolism, genetics and gestational age, meaning that in some cases, a small amount of alcohol may result in a child being born on the fetal alcohol spectrum.

There is some push-back to the study, with the authors even acknowledging the results seen in the four selected communities may not be representative of the country as a whole. Critics of the study say further research is needed to more accurately estimate the prevalence of FASD among American children.

Nonetheless, the authors of the JAMA study hope their work underscores the message that women should cease all alcohol consumption during pregnancy. It also suggests there should be more programs to help expectant mothers who struggle with drinking, and tools for parents of children who struggle with FASD.

I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.

Keep reading Show less

It’s science: Vacations make your kids happy long after they’re over

Whether you're planning a quick trip to the lake or flying the fam to a resort, the results are the same: A happier, more connected family.

Whether you're looking for hotels or a rental home for a safe family getaway, or just punching in your credit card number to reserve a spot in a campground a couple of states over, the cost of vacation plans can make a mom wince. And while price is definitely something to consider when planning a family vacation, science suggests we should consider these trips—and their benefits—priceless.

Research indicates that family vacations are essential. They make our, kids (and us) happier and build bonds and memories.

Keep reading Show less

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that newborns, especially, do not need a bath every day. While parents should make sure the diaper region of a baby is clean, until a baby learns how to crawl around and truly get messy, a daily bath is unnecessary.

So, why do we feel like kids should bathe every day?

Keep reading Show less
Learn + Play