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Prenatal alcohol exposure – a systematic review of the effects on child motor function


  • Conflict of interest
    The authors have stated explicitly that there are no conflicts of interest in connection with this article.

Bjørn Bay, School of Public Health, Department of Epidemiology, Aarhus University, Bartholins Allé 2, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark. E-mail:


Objective. To systematically review the available evidence on the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on motor function in humans. Design. Systematic review. Population. Pregnant women and their offspring. Methods. The search strategy included Medline, Embase, The Cochrane Library and Scopus. The authors read titles and abstracts, and the articles that met the predefined criteria for inclusion were obtained and the full text read. The articles were assessed for quality using the Newcastle–Ottawa Quality Assessment Scale. Main outcome measures. Motor function measured on standardized or validated tests. Results. The search resulted in 311 titles and abstracts, of which 39 were found relevant for inclusion. The findings of this review suggest a negative effect when the maternal consumption exceeded a certain level. Of all studies reporting a maternal intake of more than four drinks/day, only one study showed no effect on motor function, and of all studies reporting intake levels of less than 10 drinks/week, only one study showed deficit on the children's motor function. Conclusions. While it appears consistent that high daily alcohol intake is associated with deficits in gross and fine motor function, and low weekly intake is not associated with such deficits, the issue of binge drinking is unsettled.