Fetal Alcohol Cases More Common Than Thought

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The study included more than 6,600 first-graders from four U.S. areas: a county in the Southeast, and cities in the Pacific Southwest, Midwest and Rocky Mountains.

The children underwent detailed evaluations, and their mothers were interviewed about their drinking habits during pregnancy — and other factors like smoking, drug use and prenatal care.

The researchers estimated that, “conservatively,” fetal alcohol spectrum disorders affected between 1.1 percent and 5 percent of the children. The disorders were least common in the Midwestern city, and most common in the Rocky Mountain city.

By a less conservative estimate, however, the range was roughly 3 percent to 10 percent.

Chambers explained the difference: Not all of the students could be evaluated. The “conservative” estimate assumed that none of those kids had a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which, she noted, is unlikely.

The other estimate, she said, assumed that FASDs were just as common among unscreened children as they were in the screened group. Again, Chambers noted, that may be a stretch.

So the “true” figures might lie somewhere in between, she said.

The findings were published Feb. 6 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

According to Fifer, it’s not surprising that the rate of fetal alcohol damage ranged among communities. It’s thought that other factors — like genetics, prenatal nutrition and smoking — influence the risk of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, he said. And those things would vary from one place to the next.

Of the 222 children found to have a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, only two had been diagnosed before the study, the researchers reported.

In the real world, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are often misdiagnosed as ADHD or another developmental disorder, said Dr. Svetlana Popova, a senior scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, in Toronto, Canada.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, however, generally cause more severe symptoms than ADHD does, explained Popova, co-author of an editorial published with the study.

One issue, she said, is that general practitioners in most countries never receive the training they need to diagnose an FASD, because it’s not covered in medical school.

Article source: https://www.webmd.com/baby/news/20180206/fetal-alcohol-cases-more-common-than-thought?src=RSS_PUBLIC

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