May PA, Gossage JP. Maternal risk factors for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Not as simple as it might seem. Alcohol Research & Health 2011;34:15-26.
International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research Summary
An extremely well researched and written review on the relation of maternal drinking during pregnancy to adverse fetal outcomes has been published by scientists from the University of New Mexico Center on Alcoholism, Substance Abuse, and Addictions. It covers many factors (host, agent exposure, and environment) that have been found to relate to the occurrence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). As stated by the authors, these factors are related to quantity, frequency, and timing of alcohol exposure; maternal age; number of pregnancies; number of times the mother has given birth; the mother’s body size; nutrition; socioeconomic status; metabolism; religion; spirituality; depression; other drug use; and social relationships. The risk of fetal abnormalities is clearly increased with frequent consumption of large amounts of alcohol, and is greater among women who are alcoholics; however, these other factors modify the risk associated with alcohol consumption during pregnancy. While current data do not show that light or occasional alcohol consumption during pregnancy increases the risk of FASD, Forum members do not believe that pregnant women should be encouraged to drink.
Forum members agree with the authors that “More research is needed to more clearly define what type of individual behavioral, physical, and genetic factors are most likely to lead to having children with FASD.” Evaluating these multidimensional factors should help identify women at particular risk for having a child with FASD and lead to interventions to prevent such fetal abnormalities.