A new study published in the Journal of Science suggests that a single drinking "binge" by a pregnant woman can cause permanent brain damage to her unborn child. Previously, a 1996 study by the Institute of Medicine revealed that about 20 percent of women who drink do not stop during pregnancy. About one in every 1,000 babies born in the United States suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), a disorder caused by exposure to alcohol in the womb. The disorder can cause stunted growth, along with memory and learning problems. Now researchers are finding that one binge (one round of intoxication of about 4 hours) may cause irreparable damage to brain cells leading to brain damage and learning disabilities.
The study, conducted on rats, proved that during early brain development, alcohol consumption literally kills fetal brain cells. Developing brain cells are furiously building the connections needed for memory, learning and thought beginning sometime around the sixth month of gestation and continuing for two years after birth. During a prolonged period of exposure to ethanol (alcohol), there is a massive wave of cell suicide in the child. Apparently, while brain cells are developing by the millions, the alcohol causes a disruption of the signals needed to make the necessary connections, which affect thought, learning and memory. As the cells die, the body eliminates them as unnecessary.
These findings also raise questions pertaining to drugs administered to babies less than 2 years of age. It is important to remember that children are not "little adults" when it comes to medication. This is also beneficial information to remind us all to keep alcohol and other drugs well out of reach of curious toddlers and babies. Researchers will continue to study the affects of drugs and alcohol on unborn and young children.
So, how much alcohol is too much? Apparently, a single glass of wine during dinner is unlikely to cause the damage, but scientists cannot say that any added intake would be safe. The best decision for an unborn baby is not to drink at all during pregnancy and to keep any form of drugs or alcohol away from young children.
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Alcohol and Pregnancy - How much is too much? - Robyn's Nest ~ the parenting network
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