Study Links Mother’s Alcohol Use to Baby’s Facial Development
A new study proves alcohol intake months before conception could change your baby’s face.
While it’s known that consuming significant amounts of alcohol during pregnancy is detrimental to an unborn child’s health, not much was known about the effects of alcohol before pregnancy and how it affects facial development in children.
Professor Gennady Roshchupkin mentioned that the face is a “health mirror” in showing a child’s overall well-being. Professor Roshchupkin is the study’s lead researcher at Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam.
Can Alcohol Consumption Affect an Unborn Child?
“Exposing a child to alcohol before birth can have major adverse effects on its health and, if a mother drinks a large amount regularly, it may lead to fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), reflected in children’s faces,” the professor added.
To undergo this research, published in the journal Human Reproduction, scientists use Artificial Intelligence to carefully study 3-dimensional images of 5600 children, all with age brackets 9 and 13.
The children are part of an ongoing study based on pregnant women and their children in the Netherlands. “For this task, we created an AI-based algorithm that takes high-resolution 3D images of the face and produces 200 unique measurements or traits”.
“We carefully studied these to check for associations with prenatal alcohol exposure and developed heat maps to display the particular facial features associated with the mother’s alcohol consumption.”
The results were astounding, as there was a statistically significant connection between alcohol consumption and face shapes in 9-year-old children.
These results didn’t matter if the alcohol intake by the mothers were less than 12g per week, equivalent to a small 175ml glass of wine or 330ml of beer. The most common changes were:
- Shortened nose
- Turned-up nose tip
- Turned-out chin
- Turned-in lower eyelid
“The more alcohol the mother drank, the more significant changes there were,” Mr. Xianjing Liu said. Lui is the study’s first author responsible for the AI algorithm development.
What is healthy for you is also healthy for your baby. Avoid the use of harmful substances during pregnancy (including #alcohol & #tobacco) to minimize harmful effects on your baby. #HealthyCommunitiesHealthyBabies pic.twitter.com/umILy9Pezs
— Va Dept of Health (@VDHgov) February 11, 2022
Previous studies of childhood development after prenatal alcohol exposure have suggested that the outcomes may be metabolic disorders in the mothers, such as fatty liver diseases and problems with sugar levels in the blood.
Further investigation and study are needed, even with its link to the face shape. Since the study cut across multiple ethnic backgrounds of many children, it may be termed a strength of the research.
One of the major concerns for the scientists was that mothers may not have filled out the questionnaire about their drinking habits accurately.
There was also no data on alcohol consumption more than three months before pregnancy, which was a limiting factor.
This observational study cannot show that alcohol consumption causes changes in face shapes in children. But only that it is associated with them.
It is also essential to emphasize that there is no standard safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
Hence, it is advisable to cease drinking alcohol before conception. It is vital to ensure optimal health conditions for both the mother and the developing fetus.
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