Can time of exposure to alcohol during pregnancy cause variations in birth defects?

August 30, 2012 at 4:58 pm

A new study using mice shows that the time of exposure during pregnancy may have an affect on facial and brain defects of the fetus.

Exposure to alcohol early in pregnancy produces a pattern of facial and brain defects that can vary greatly depending on the time of exposure, according to an experimental study published online Aug. 22 in PLoS One.

Robert J. Lipinski, Ph.D., from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and colleagues used magnetic resonance imaging and dense surface modeling-based shape analysis to analyze face and brain phenotypes after pregnant mice were injected with a high dose of ethanol on gestational day 7 (corresponding to the third week of pregnancy in humans) or 8.5 (corresponding to the fourth week of pregnancy in humans).

The researchers found that mice exposed to ethanol on gestational day 7 displayed the classic facial signs of human fetal alcohol syndrome, with the characteristic abnormalities of the upper lip and eyes, including severe midfacial hypoplasia, shortening of the palpebral fissures, an elongated upper lip, and deficient philtrum. However, mice exposed on gestational day 8.5 exhibited milder or none of the classic abnormalities. Exposure on day 8.5 produced mild midfacial hypoplasia and palpebral fissure shortening, a shortened upper lip, and a preserved philtrum. These changes were associated with unique volumetric and shape abnormalities in the septal region, pituitary, and olfactory bulbs.

While many people argue that drinking later in pregnancy is safer, prevention advocates maintain that there is no safe time to drink during pregnancy. Why take the risk at all with your baby?

Entry filed under: Prevention.

New article on FASD September 9th is FASD Awareness Day!

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