Drinking alcohol while pregnant could harm not just your children, but grandchildren

No amount of alcohol a pregnant woman drinks is safe for a developing baby, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Now new research finds that maternal alcohol consumption may not just impact the baby a woman is carrying, but also that baby’s future children and even grandchildren.

Alcohol can spark epigenetic changes that persist across generations, according to the study from the University of California Riverside, published in the journal Cerebral Cortex.

CDC Vital Signs, February 2016. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, November 2015 | Aaron Thorup, CDC Vital Signs, February 2016. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, November 2015

“We have evidence today that the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure could pass through to other generations, negatively impacting offspring who didn’t have direct alcohol exposure,” said Kelly Huffman, psychology professor at UC Riverside, who led the research.

The CDC reports that three-fourths of women actively wanting to get pregnant say they drink alcohol. More than 3 million American women are at risk of exposing a developing baby to alcohol, due in part to a lag time very early in the pregnancy before a woman knows that she’s pregnant. That may create a window where even women who would never drink if they knew they were pregnant place their developing baby at risk. And some pregnant women mistakenly believe it’s possible to drink moderately without risk to the babies they are carrying.

“No amount of alcohol in any trimester is considered safe,” said Julia Robertson, the Utah Department of Health’s Pregnancy Risk Line’s Mother to Baby program manager.

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