The relationship between prenatal maternal alcohol use and growth and morphologic abnormalities in the offspring of 650 women studied prospectively is reported from the School of Medicine and Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Uuniversity of Pittsburgh, PA. Low birth weight, decreased head circumference and length, and an increased rate of fetal alcoholic effects were all found to be significantly correlated with exposure to alcohol during the first two months of the first trimester. The average amounts of alcohol consumed in the first trimester for women who were delivered of infants with no, one, or multiple minor physical anomalies were 0.67, 0.98, and 1.07 drinks per day, respectively (P=0.5). The corresponding average daily volumes for mothers of babies exhibiting no, one, or multiple fetal alcohol effects were 0.69, 0.85, and 1.28 (P=0.13). The time of greatest impact of drinking was in the early part of the first trimester. [1]

COMMENT. Data from this study have also demonstrated an effect of alcohol use on the sleep electroencephalographic patterns of newborns and on growth at eight months of age [2]. This study identifies and emphasizes the importance of exposure to alcohol early in the first trimester as a cause of intrauterine growth retardation and/or morphologic abnormalities in newborn infants. The infant is also at risk if mother drinks alcohol during the breast-feeding period.