Fetal Alcohol Cases More Common Than Thought, Study Says

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More U.S. children may be living with brain damage from prenatal drinking than experts have thought, a new study suggests.

The study of four U.S. communities found that at least 1 percent to 5 percent of first-graders had a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, or FASD.

The prevalence ranged depending on the community. And when the researchers used a less-strict estimate, the rate went as high as 10 percent in one location.

The figures challenge commonly accepted estimates on fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, which have been thought to affect about 1 percent of U.S. children.

“The bottom line is, these are not uncommon disorders,” said study leader Christina Chambers, a professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is an umbrella term that includes fetal alcohol syndrome — which can be fatal, or cause serious problems with learning and behavior, stunted growth and facial abnormalities. It also includes less-severe learning or behavioral issues that can be traced to a woman’s prenatal drinking.

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SOURCES: Christina Chambers, Ph.D., M.P.H., professor, pediatrics, University of California, San Diego; William Fifer, Ph.D., professor, medical psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center, New York City; Svetlana Popova, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., senior scientist, Institute for Mental Health Policy Research, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Canada; Feb. 6, 2018, Journal of the American Medical Association

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