Fetal Alcohol Syndrome May Be Far More Prevalent Than Previous Studies Have Suggested

A new academic study finds that the occurrence of fetal alcohol syndrome in the United States may be far higher than previously thought. Fetal alcohol syndrome is an umbrella term describing the range of effects that can occur in a child whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. Some of the features include a small head, below average weight and height, difficulty with learning and behavioral problems.

Previous studies suggested that 10 of every 1,000 children suffered from the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome. But the current study finds that this estimate might be very low. The study examined 6,000 first-graders in four regions of the country. They found that the rate of fetal alcohol syndrome was 11 for every 1,000 children in the Midwest, but 50 per 1,000 children in the Rocky Mountain region. Less than one percent of the children diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome during the study had previously been diagnosed.

Christina Chambers, a professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and co-leader of the study, stated that “our findings suggest that fetal alcohol syndrome is a critical health problem that often goes undiagnosed and misdiagnosed. Prenatal alcohol exposure is the leading preventable cause of birth defects and neurological abnormalities in the United States. It can cause a range of developmental, cognitive and behavioral problems, which may be recognized at any time during childhood and can last a lifetime.”

Dr. Chambers is a graduate of California State University, Fullerton, where she majored in anthropology. She holds a master of public health degree from San Diego State University and a Ph.D. in public health epidemiology from a joint program of the University of California, San Diego and San Diego State University

The full study, “Prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders in 4 U.S. Communities,” was published on the website of the Journal of the American Medical Association. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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