Rate of Children Affected by Drinking During Pregnancy May Be Higher Than Previously Estimated

Bottom Line: Children whose mothers drank alcohol during pregnancy can have fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, and the frequency of these disorders, which can cause developmental disabilities, may be higher than previously estimated.
 
Why The Research Is Interesting: Older data suggest the estimated frequency of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders in the United States is 10 per 1,000 children.
 
Who and When: 6,639 children were selected from among 13,146 first-graders in four regions of the United States and assessed for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders from 2010-2016
 
What (Study Measures): Maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy (exposure); frequency of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders in children (outcomes)
 
How (Study Design): This was an observational study. Researchers were not intervening for purposes of the study and cannot control all the natural differences that could explain the study findings.
 
Authors: Christina D. Chambers, Ph.D., M.P.H., University of California San Diego School of Medicine, and coauthors
 
Results: Estimates of the frequency of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders ranged from 11.3 to 50 per 1,000 children.
 
Study Limitations: Children were from four geographic regions (Rocky Mountain, Midwest, Southeast and Pacific Southwest) and those regions may not be representative of the United States overall.
 
Study Conclusions: Estimated frequency of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders among first-graders in four U.S. communities ranged from 1.1 percent to 5 percent. These findings may represent more accurate U.S. prevalence estimates than previous studies but may not be generalizable to all communities.
 
Related material: The following related elements also are available on the For The Media website:
 
— The editorial, “Implications of Higher Than Expected Prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders,” by Shannon Lange, M.P.H., Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, and coauthors.
 
— Previously published by JAMA Pediatrics, Global Prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Among Children and Youth.
 
For more details and to read the full study, please visit the For The Media website.
 
(doi:10.1001/jama.2017.21896)