Health Care

Study links newborn health risks to dads' drinking

Study links newborn health risks to dads' drinking”

Previous meta-reviews of this sort had only looked at women, so the lab chose to include data on paternal alcohol consumption as well.The studies asked one or both parents to recall what their alcohol habits had been before their child's birth or tracked parental drinking leading up to their having a baby.

Researchers performed a meta-analysis that looked at a total of 55 studies, which were pulled from PubMed, Embase and Chinese databases, and which involved 41,747 CHD cases and 297,587 controls.

To err on the side of caution, Qin says, dads should avoid alcohol for six months before conception, while women should stop drinking a full year prior to conception and while pregnant.

A study of 340,000 births found fathers who drank before pregnancy put their child at significant risk of the potentially deadly conditions. A congenital heart defect is the most common type of birth defect, and according to the CDC, about 30% of babies born with one also have other physical problems or developmental or cognitive disorders.

Compared to non-drinkers, fathers who drank during the three months before conception were 44% more likely to have babies born with congenital heart disease.

Researchers at the Central South University in Changsha, China, have now advised men not to drink any alcohol for six months before conception. It isn't clear, for instance, whether a mother's light-to-moderate drinking actually increases the risk of birth defects. The analysis showed a nonlinear dose-response relationship between parental alcohol drinking and congenital heart diseases. In the meantime, Qin says, it's time for a bigger study with expecting parents to make sure that alcohol really is upping the chances of heart defects.

Compared with not drinking, maternal alcohol use was also linked to a 20% higher risk of a baby born with a combination of four structural heart abnormalities known as Tetralogy of Fallot. Thus, the lowest percentile of drinking carried a very low, statistically insignificant risk of this condition, but the risk slowly rose with increasingly heavy drinking by one or both parents.

"Binge drinking by would-be parents is a high risk and risky behaviour that not only may increase the chance of their baby being born with a heart defect, but also greatly damages their own health", explained study author Jiabi Qin, of Xiangya School of Public Health, Central South University, Changsha, China.

Academics noted that this was an observational study and does not prove an effect.

"We observed a gradually rising risk of congenital heart diseases as parental alcohol consumption increased". The data can not be used to define a cut-off of alcohol consumption that might be considered safe.

Hopeful mothers and fathers are just going to have to swallow the tricky truth: "Although our investigation has limits ... it does reveal that men and women of all ages planning a family members must give up liquor", Qin states.

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