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Keywords:

  • alcohol;
  • diabetes;
  • pregnancy;
  • fetus;
  • malformations

Abstract

To determine the effect of maternal diabetes and alcohol intake, separately and in combination, on fetal growth and development, pregnant rats were divided into four groups: diabetic (D), diabetic plus alcohol (DA), control (C), and control plus alcohol (CA). Diabetes was induced by administration of streptozotocin before mating and alcohol was administered by gavage (2 g/kg body weight/day) on days 6--11 of gestation. Both diabetic groups (D and DA) had significantly lower weight gain during pregnancy compared to the controls (C and CA), despite the fact that the former consumed more food and water. Alcohol treatment resulted in reduced water and food intake and lower weight gain in the diabetic rats (DA), but not in the non-diabetic rats (CA), compared to their respective controls (D and C). On day 21 of gestation fetal body weights were significantly less and placental weights were significantly greater in the diabetic groups (D and DA) compared with the non-diabetic groups (C and CA). Differences in fetal and placental weights between rats exposed and not exposed to alcohol (C vs. CA and D vs. DA) were not significant. The number of fetuses with external malformations was significantly greater in the litters of alcohol exposed diabetic (DA) than non-alcohol exposed (D) animals. No external or skeletal malformations were observed in fetuses of non-diabetic rats regardless of whether or not they received alcohol (C or CA). The skeletal development of fetuses of diabetic rats, judged by the number and size of ossification centers on day 21 of gestation, was retarded when compared with fetuses of non-diabetic rats. Alcohol further retarded skeletal development of fetuses of diabetic animals (DA vs. D), but not of fetuses of non-diabetic rats (CA vs. C). It is concluded that maternal alcohol administration potentiates the effects of maternal diabetes on the incidence of fetal malformations and the retardation of skeletal development. © 1995 Wiley-Liss, Inc.