Mental development of 2-year-old children exposed to alcohol in utero

I. Autti-Rämö, M. Korkman, L. Hilakivi-Clarke, M. Lehtonen, E. Halmensmäki, M. L. Granström

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In a prospective follow-up study, 60 children exposed to alcohol in utero were assessed by a psychologist (Bayley Mental scale) and a speech therapist (Reynell Verbal Comprehension scale) at a mean age of 27 months. Many mothers had been able to reduce their alcohol consumption during pregnancy, so the children could be divided into those exposed to heavy drinking during the first trimester only (group 1, n=20), those exposed during the first and second trimesters (group 2, n=20), and those exposed throughout pregnancy (group 3, n=20). Forty-eight nonexposed children were examined to set the -2 SD limit for subnormal performance on the Bayley and Reynell tests. No definite effect of alcohol exposure on mental or language development was found in group 1. Children in group 3 scored significantly lower than children in group 1 both on the Bayley Mental scale and on the Reynell Verbal Comprehension scale; delay in language development was seen more often in group 2 than in group 1. The diagnosis of fetal alcohol syndrome was made in seven children (one in group 2 and six in group 3) and the diagnosis of fetal alcohol effects in 13 children (one in group 1, three in group 2, and nine in group 3). Efforts should be made to identify and find proper treatment for women who drink alcohol early in their pregnancies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)740-746
Number of pages7
JournalThe Journal of pediatrics
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1992
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
In most earlier studies, children with FAS were identified postnatally and information about maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy was gathered retrospectively.l, 3-13 Only a few follow-up studies on the developmental outcome of the offspring have collected data on maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy. 14-1s The develop- Supported by the Finnish Foundation for Alcohol Studies, Research Department of the Rinnekoti Foundation, Arvo and Lea Ylpp6 Foundation. Submitted for publication April 19, 1991; accepted Dec. 3, 1991. Reprint requests: Ilona Autti-R~im6, MD, Peuram/ientie 1 H 18, 02700 Kauniainen, Finland. 9/20/35461 mental outcome of children exposed to alcohol in utero varies from severe mental retardation to normal performance with subtle cognitive dysfunction. 1, 3-13, 16-18 In our study the mothers were enrolled during early pregnancy, when they were identified as heavy consumers of alcohol. The main aim of this study was to assess the effect of discontinuation of heavy drinking at a later stage of pregnancy on the developmental outcome of the offspring.


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