Drinking While Pregnant Can Hurt Future Generations

Moms-to-be, take note! Yet another study came out today reminding us to completely abstain from alcohol during pregnancy, warning that drinking while pregnant could hurt your future generations.

Drinking While Pregnant Can Hurt Future GenerationsResearchers at the University of California Riverside learned in their study that drinking in pregnancy could cause abnormalities in the brain and behaviour of the newborn and may also trickle down to future generations of these children.

For years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been warning women about the dire consequences of alcohol consumption in pregnancy. The trend may lead to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, or FASD, in the newborn child, the health agency warns.

The current study now shows that drinking alcohol in pregnancy can not only affect the yet-to-be-born child, but also the mother’s future grandchildren and great-grandchildren who were not even exposed to alcohol in the womb.

According to the principal investigator, Kelly Huffman from the University of California, Riverside, prenatal ethanol exposure, or PrEE, until now was believed to affect only the fetus in the womb of a mother who gets directly exposed.

But she along with her team found strong evidence that the impact of PrEE could persist transgenerationally and affect the future generations of offspring even when they were never exposed to alcohol.

Using a mouse model of FASD, Huffman and colleagues found that the neurobiological and behavioural abnormalities from prenatal ethanol exposure can pass trans-generationally.

In an animal trial, the researchers fed mice a mixture of water and 25 percent ethanol, and compared them with a control group of mice that were given plain water throughout their pregnancies. After examining the brain and behavioral development of the mice over three generations, they found that the first generation, directly exposed to alcohol, was affected the most and that lesser impact appeared in the second and third generations.

They observed a specific gene expression, abnormal growth of the neural network in the neocortex and behavioral deficits in the directly exposed mice. These neurodevelopmental and behavioral problems were also seen in the non-exposed subsequent generations of mice. The third generation of alcohol-exposed mice showed not substantial but still significant effects such as mood disorders and impaired 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.

These findings were published July 6 in Cerebral Cortex.

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