A study that followed the children of women who admitted to binge drinking in pregnancy found the children had an increased risk of hyperactivity and inattention when they reached age 11. These children also were more likely to get lower marks on school exams.
The study included more than 4,000 participants in England and Australia. The researchers took into account many lifestyle and social factors, such as the mother’s age, education and mental health, whether she smoked tobacco, or used marijuana or other drugs during pregnancy. The study is published in European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
Binge drinking was defined as having four or more alcoholic drinks in a day on at least one occasion during pregnancy, Medical Daily reports. The mothers were questioned about their drinking habits twice during their pregnancy, and again when their child was 5. One-fourth of the mothers said they engaged in binge drinking at least once during their pregnancy. At age 11, parents and teachers completed questionnaires about the children’s mental health. The researchers also examined information about the children’s academic performance. The effects of a mother’s binge drinking were more pronounced in girls, the study found.
Previous studies have found a link between a mother’s binge drinking in pregnancy and their children’s mental health at ages 4 and 7.
“Women who are pregnant or who are planning to become pregnant should be aware of the possible risks associated with episodes of heavier drinking during pregnancy, even if this only occurs on an occasional basis,” lead researcher Professor Kapil Sayal from the University of Nottingham said in a news release. “The consumption of four or more drinks in a day may increase the risk for hyperactivity and inattention problems and lower academic attainment even if daily average levels of alcohol consumption during pregnancy are low.”