Beware Pregnant Women! Drinking in Pregnancy Can Risk Future Generations

A new study is giving fresh reason to fret about drinking in pregnancy. Consuming alcohol during pregnancy can risk your future generations, warns the new study.

According to the study by researchers from the University of California Riverside, drinking in pregnancy may lead to abnormalities in the brain and behaviour of the newborn and may also pass on to future generations of children.

For years, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has repeatedly been warning about the dangers of consuming alcohol during pregnancy, which the agency warns can cause Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, or FASD, in the newborn child.

The new study has now found that alcohol drinking in pregnancy can not only affect the unborn baby, but also future grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Lead author Kelly Huffman from the University of California, Riverside said that prenatal ethanol exposure, or PrEE, was until now thought to have its impact on directly exposed offspring, the fetus in the womb of a mother.

However, Huffman and her team came up with strong evidence that the negative impact of PrEE could persist transgenerationally and adversely affect the next-generations of offspring who were never exposed to alcohol.

To determine whether the neurobiological and behavioural abnormalities from prenatal ethanol exposure from maternal consumption of alcohol would pass trans-generationally, Huffman and colleagues used a mouse model of FASD.

They gave a group of mice a mixture of water and 25 percent ethanol, and plain water to a control group, throughout their pregnancies. They then tested brain and behavioral development of the mice over three generations, and discovered a typical gene expression, abnormal development of the neural network in the neocortex and behavioral deficits in the first generation of mouse that was directly exposed.

What was more shocking that the non-exposed subsequent generations of mice had neurodevelopmental and behavioral problems similar to those of the first generation that were directly exposed to alcohol. The third generation, or great-grandchildren, of alcohol-exposed mice showed less serious but still measurable effects such as mood disorders and trouble with motor skills.

“We found that body weight and brain size were significantly reduced in all generations of PrEE animals when compared to controls; all generations of PrEE mice showed increased anxiety-like, depressive-like behaviors and sensory-motor deficits,” Huffman stated.

Huffman said that while alcohol doesn’t affect everyone the same way and exposure to it may not cause significant changes in the brain of every child, she still maintains her research shows that consuming any amount of alcohol during pregnancy poses a risk that may be pass on to future generations.

The research was published July 6 in Cerebral Cortex.