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J FAS Int 2003;1:e10 -
Special Webcast of 3rd FACE Research Roundtable, September 9, 2002, Vancouver, BC


Background

Consumption of large amounts of alcohol in pregnancy adversely affects the fetus and may result in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Because of the familial trend of problem drinking, it is possible that women drinking heavily in pregnancy were also victims of FAS through their mother?s drinking.

Objective

To examine the possibility that women drinking in pregnancy were also affected by alcohol use in their mothers.

Method

A cohort study was conducted at ?Breaking the Cycle? program in Toronto, where mothers of young children or expecting mothers with problem drinking and drug abuse, and their children are followed and treated. Women?s alcohol use, depression, alcohol use in pregnancy, as well as learning difficulties, and their mother?s alcohol consumption were assessed and compared to the general population.

Results

All 173 women who passed the first contact stage and were followed by the program were included in this study. One hundred and sixty-five women reported problem drinking, and 64 of them reported being raised by a mother with problem drinking. Rates of depression, learning difficulties, suicide attempts, drinking in pregnancy and criminality were 6-fold higher than in the general population, and their educational levels substantially lower than the Canadian average.

Conclusions

A substantial proportion of women drinking heavily in pregnancy were born to women who drank heavily. Their characteristics, including rates of learning, disability, criminality and psychiatric morbidity, suggest that a substantial proportion of them are afflicted by ethanol embyropathy. Further studies should examine these women directly for the diagnosis of FAS.

From the Motherisk Program, Division of Clinical Pharmacology/Toxicology, The Hospital for Sick Children and the University of Toronto. Supported by grants from the Canadian Institute for Health Research.

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