The effect of different alcohol drinking patterns in early to mid pregnancy on the child’s intelligence, attention, and executive function

Authors

  • US Kesmodel,

    1. Department of Public Health, Section of Epidemiology, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
    2. Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark
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  • J Bertrand,

    1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, GA, USA
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  • H Støvring,

    1. Department of Public Health, Section of Biostatistics, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
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  • B Skarpness,

    1. Battelle, Columbus, OH, USA
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  • CH Denny,

    1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, GA, USA
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  • EL Mortensen,

    1. Institute of Public Health and Centre for Healthy Ageing, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
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  • the Lifestyle During Pregnancy Study Group

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    • The Lifestyle During Pregnancy Study Group: LS Bakketeig,a CA Boyle,b ME Cogswell,b H-L Falgreen Eriksen,c J Grove,d T Kilburn,c NI Landrø,eÅ Skogerbø,f M Underbjerg,c,g T Wimberleyh
      aNorwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway bCenters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, Georgia, USA cDepartment of Public Health, Section of Epidemiology, Aarhus University, Denmark dDepartment of Biomedicine, Faculty of Health Sciences and Bioinformatics Research Centre (BiRC), Aarhus University, Denmark eCenter for the Study of Human Cognition, Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, Norway fInstitute of Public Health, University of Copenhagen, Denmark gChildren’s Neurocenter at Vejlefjord Rehabilitation Center, Vejle, Denmark hDepartment of Public Health, Section of Biostatistics, Aarhus University, Denmark.


  • The findings and conclusions of this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr US Kesmodel, Department of Public Health, Section of Epidemiology, Aarhus University, Bartholins Allé 2, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark. Email ukes@soci.au.dk

Abstract

Please cite this paper as: Kesmodel U, Bertrand J, Støvring H, Skarpness B, Denny C, Mortensen E, the Lifestyle During Pregnancy Study Group. The effect of different alcohol drinking patterns in early to mid pregnancy on the child’s intelligence, attention, and executive function. BJOG 2012;119:1180–1190.

Objective  To conduct a combined analysis of the estimated effects of maternal average weekly alcohol consumption, and any binge drinking, in early to mid pregnancy on general intelligence, attention, and executive function in 5-year-old children.

Design  Follow-up study.

Setting  Neuropsychological testing in four Danish cities 2003–2008.

Population  A cohort of 1628 women and their children sampled from the Danish National Birth Cohort.

Methods  Participants were sampled based on maternal alcohol consumption during early pregnancy. At age 5 years, the children were tested for general intelligence, attention, and executive function. The three outcomes were analysed together in a multivariate model to obtain joint estimates and P values for the association of alcohol across outcomes. The effects of low to moderate alcohol consumption and binge drinking in early pregnancy were adjusted for a wide range of potential confounding factors.

Main outcome measures  Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence—Revised (WPPSI-R), the Test of Everyday Attention for Children at Five (TEACh-5), and the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Functions (BRIEF) scores.

Results  Multivariate analyses showed no statistically significant effects arising from average weekly alcohol consumption or any binge drinking, either individually or in combination. These results replicate findings from separate analyses of each outcome variable.

Conclusions  The present study contributes comprehensive methodological and statistical approaches that should be incorporated in future studies of low to moderate alcohol consumption and binge drinking during pregnancy. Furthermore, as no safe level of drinking during pregnancy has been established, the most conservative advice for women is not to drink alcohol during pregnancy. However, the present study suggests that small volumes consumed occasionally may not present serious concern.

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