Drinking alcohol during pregnancy is a contentious issue; largely because there is no definitive threshold when it comes to safe versus dangerous consumption. Many women feel the odd glass here and there is no big deal, but to be sure, abstinence is always advised – and a new study validates this precaution.
The risk of foetal alcohol syndrome is often attributed to excessive drinking, but recent research reveals that imbibing just a small amount – two drinks maximum in a sitting and seven drinks maximum in a week – can alter your baby’s development in-utero.
The telltale sign of foetal alcohol spectrum disorders are unusually shaped facial features; a research team from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute conducted intensive facial analysis of 415 one-year-old babies using 3D photos – and the results showed subtle – but inarguable – differences in facial features between babies who were exposed to maternal alcohol consumption and those whose mothers avoided drinking for the duration of gestation.
The concern, of course, is that plenty mums-to-be might enjoy a bit of red (or whatever) before they realise they’re pregnant; the study authors reassure that the observed facial effects may not be permanent, as facial features can change significantly in the early years of childhood.
That being said, the takeaway from the study remains that sticking to the guidelines for abstaining altogether comes with good reason; the outward (and possibly transient) changes wrought by alcohol may be barely detectable to the untrained eye, but they could belie more integral, long-term effects to internal physiology.