Children of Older Moms More Vulnerable to Prenatal Alcohol Exposure

July 21, 2010

For women who consume alcohol during pregnancy, age does appear to be a factor in determining the extent of the child's neurobehavioral outcome.

For women who consume alcohol during pregnancy, age does appear to be a factor in determining the extent of the child’s neurobehavioral outcome.

Findings from a study that will appear in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research show that children born to older women who drink alcohol during pregnancy demonstrated increased cognitive-behavioral deficits compared to those born to younger alcoholic mothers.

While prenatal exposure to alcohol has been previously linked to a number of morphologic and neurobehavioral consequences, identification of at-risk pregnancies has been difficult, according to lead researcher Lisa M. Chiodo, Ph.D., of Wayne State University School of Medicine, because the presence and severity of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) “are influenced by factors beyond the pattern of alcohol consumption.”

Chiodo and colleagues set out to determine whether characteristics such as maternal age, which increase the risk of FASD, can be utilized as targets for pregnancy intervention. They examined the effects of maternal age on measures of attention in 462 children born to inner-city women were recruited during pregnancy, studying binge drinking, smoking, and the use of cocaine, marijuana and opiates in participants. At seven years of age, the children completed a Continuous Performance Test, and their teachers completed the Achenbach Teacher Report Form.

In their analyses, the researchers found “a negative relation between levels of prenatal binge drinking and several measures of attention. The interaction between alcohol consumption and maternal age was also significant, indicating that the impact of maternal binge drinking during pregnancy on attention was greater among children born to older drinking mothers.”