Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Drinking before pregnancy may indicate behavior problems in children

A study found that women who drink before pregnancy are more likely to have children with behavioral problems.

Risk drinking before pregnancy can increase the risk of the development behavioral problems in toddlers. This comes from a new study using data from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa). Early intervention to help and support mothers and their children could help to prevent these problems from developing into long term behavioral problems.

In the study, several screening questions were used to measure maternal drinking behavior; how many drinks were needed to feel high, had others irritated or hurt them by criticizing their alcohol consumption, had they felt they ought to drink less alcohol, and had they ever drunk alcohol in the morning to relieve a hangover.
The study shows that risk drinking before pregnancy increases the risk of early behavior problems among children. According to the researchers, risk drinking may be due to other associated risk factors in maternal behavior such as anxiety, depression or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which also are known to have an impact on child behavioral problems.
Prenatal exposure to alcohol is known to affect the developing fetus, with adverse cognitive and behavioral effects. Most risk drinking women therefore limit or stop drinking alcohol while pregnant. Paternal risk drinking is also known to have a negative impact on toddler behavior. This is the first study to study the impact of risk drinking before pregnancy. The results could not be explained by alcohol consumption during pregnancy and after birth.
"This increased risk for behavioral problems in the child is probably not due to the risk drinking per se, but rather to the general mental health and lifestyle of some of the mothers. Risk drinking behavior before pregnancy may indicate that these families could need closer follow-up and support during the early years of the child's life" says Ann Kristin Knudsen, primary author of the article published in the European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry journal.
The study considered both internalizing and externalizing behavioral problems among the toddlers. Internalizing behavioral problems include anxiety, inhibition, withdrawal or depression. Restlessness, defiance, fighting and lack of remorse are examples of externalizing behavior. These are known risk factors for behavior problems in childhood and adolescence, which sometimes continue into adulthood.
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