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Drinking Dads Could Cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Everyone knows pregnant moms should stay away from booze, but does that also apply to dads?

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Not ready to be a dad? Shutterstock

By Bryan Le

02/18/14

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Among a venerable bevy of pregnancy don'ts, it's common knowledge that moms shouldn't drink because it could cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, a pattern of mental and physical defects that manifest as retarded intellect, stunted growth, and nervous system abnormalities as a child grows. But new research suggests that staying sober is no longer only the mom's responsibility - now dads might also have to cut back on alcohol if they want to avoid complications in their unborn children.

In a recent experiment to discover a father's role in fetal development, scientists exposed a group of male mice to varying concentrations of alcohol. When it came time for them to have babies, scientists kept a close eye for differences between the offspring of drunk dad mice as compared to sober ones. Turns out that the baby mice of drunk fathers suffered from abnormal organ and brain development, while babies of teetotaler mice exposed only to saline failed to develop any symptoms.

The experiment showed that a father's lifestyle and habits can contribute more to the health of a child than previously thought. Researchers believe that the genes in men's sperm responsible for normal fetal development can be negatively affected by alcohol consumption, shattering the notion that it's only the mom's diet and habits that count.

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