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Keywords:

  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome;
  • Cognition;
  • Growth;
  • Dysmorphology;
  • Screening

The effect of prenatal alcohol exposure on growth, dysmorphology, and cognitive development at 6 years was examined in children whose mothers had completed a self-administered questionnaire during pregnancy. Drinking patterns prior to pregnancy recognition and indications of problem drinking (IPD) were assessed. Heavier alcohol intake was associated with slower growth in height and head circumference and increased dysmorphology, as evidenced by facial features associated with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and the prevalence of probable/possible fetal alcohol effects (FAE). Indications of problem drinking predicted facial features associated with FAS and cognitive deficits (i.e., lower WPPSl Verbal IQ scores and lower scores on a test of receptive language function, the Token lest). Effects of alcohol consumption on head circumference and of indications of problem drinking on Verbal IQ and Token lest scores remained significant, even after excluding children born to mothers having drinkers (over seven drinks a day) and children with probable/ possible FAE. Verbal IQ was an average of 7.1 points (95% confidence interval = 0.01, 14.25) lower among children born to mothers having more than one indication of problem drinking than it was among those born to women having fewer indications; Token lest scores were 4.3 points lower (95% confidence interval = 1.38, 7.24). Although the confidence intervals for these estimates are broad in this small, heterogeneous sample, their magnitude, if confirmed, is significant given that the population standard deviation for Verbal IQ is 15, and that for the Token lest is 5.