Drinking Alcohol While Pregnant Can Affect Multiple Generations

By May Wilkerson 03/03/16

As little as four glasses of wine during pregnancy can increase the risk of alcoholism in future generations. 

Drinking Alcohol While Pregnant Can Affect Multiple Generations
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Could your propensity for booze be traced back to your mother or grandmother drinking during pregnancy? Maybe. As little as four drinks throughout the course of a pregnancy could have an impact on children and grandchildren’s alcohol-related behavior when they grow up, according to a new study from Binghamton University.

Drinking during pregnancy carries other known risks as well, though the subject has been hotly debated for decades. Earlier this year, scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that any amount of booze during pregnancy could raise the risk of a fetus being born with brain damage and/or other developmental issues. But despite these warnings, studies show that 10-15% of American women still drink at least a little alcohol during pregnancy. 

Past research suggested that prenatal alcohol exposure could also increase a person’s likelihood of drinking by “altering the neurophysiological response to the challenge of alcohol,” Medical News Today reports. This new study backs this claim, suggesting there could be a significantly higher chance of teen alcohol use disorder among people who were exposed to even a very small amount of alcohol in the womb.

In the study, researchers gave pregnant rats the equivalent of one glass of wine four times during the second trimester. After the baby rats were born and matured, scientists found that this group of rats had a higher preference for consuming alcohol and an increased sensitivity to alcohol, compared to rats whose mothers did not consume alcohol during pregnancy. They also examined the third generation of rats and found that the predilection and sensitivity to alcohol also remained more prevalent among rats whose grandmothers had consumed alcohol while pregnant.

"Our findings show that in the rat, when a mother consumes the equivalent of one glass of wine four times during the pregnancy, her offspring and grand-offspring, up to the third generation, show increased alcohol preference and less sensitivity to alcohol," said study lead Nicole Cameron. "Thus, the offspring are more likely to develop alcoholism. This paper is the first to demonstrate trans-generational effects of alcohol consumption during pregnancy on alcohol-related behavior in offspring." This could mean that people with a greater preference for alcohol and a higher sensitivity to the effects of booze may have either a mother or grandmother who consumed alcohol during pregnancy, said researchers.

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.