It is known that alcohol consumption may lead to health problems, and pregnant women and their babies are no an exception to that. In Scotland, they are testing newborn babies for alcohol molecules because of concerns that mothers drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy.

A study was conducted at the Princess Royal Hospital in Glasgow to test the newborns' meconium, or the first feces, for alcohol molecules after concerns that mothers drank alcoholic beverages while they were pregnant.

Headed by Dr. Helen Mactier, a neonatologist, the researchers initially tested 200 samples of meconium for fatty acid ethyl esters, which indicate whether the newborns were exposed to alcohol while in the womb. The researchers also tested the fecal samples for ethyl glucuronide, which is formed following exposure to ethanol.

The researchers have already gathered 600 out of 750 target fecal samples. Along with the fecal samples from newborns, the mothers also completed a questionnaire regarding their lifestyle and other background information.

The study found that 42 percent of mothers drank alcohol at one point while they were pregnant. With the test for ethyl glucoronide, it was found that 15 percent of women had drunk more than two short glasses of wine every week during their pregnancy.

"We found ethyl ester in 42 percent, which will in some cases indicate alcohol consumption but could also indicate consumption of oils like olive oil eaten by mom," said Mactier.

Mactier added that the results showed that pregnant women consume significant amounts of alcoholic drinks. The results revealed that one out of seven pregnant women drink an estimated four to five drinks several days per week.

Drinking alcoholic beverages among pregnant women could harm the baby in their womb, but some still continue doing it and they under-report this because of the fear of being stigmatized.

"Alcohol consumption in pregnancy is almost certainly contributing to a lot of learning disability in Scotland and learning disability is associated with poor school performance and criminality in the long term," said Mactier. "Women should not be drinking at all in pregnancy."

According to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), pregnant women do not need surveillance and snooping, what they need is support.

"The growing trend toward monitoring pregnant women, and blaming all issues that children face on their mothers' behavior in pregnancy, is something that should concern all of us involved in women's reproductive health care and advocacy," a spokeswoman for the BPAS said. "If pregnant women do choose to drink, to minimize the risk to the baby, we recommend they should not drink more than one or two units once or twice a week."

Photo: Alexandre Dulaunoy | Flickr

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