Drinking Alcohol One Month Before Pregnancy May Cause Intestinal Birth Defect


Consuming alcohol one month prior to conception may cause an intestinal birth defect, according to a recent study.

Maternal-fetal medicine specialists at Loyola University Health System found an association between gastroschisis and alcohol use one month prior to conception and during the first trimester.

Gastroschisis is a type of hernia that is typically identified during an ultrasound. An infant with this condition will have their intestines stick out of the body through a defect on one side of the umbilical cord. These pregnancies are monitored closely to ensure the unborn baby remains healthy.

 "A woman can conceive at any point in her cycle, so women should avoid alcohol well in advance of becoming pregnant," Jean Goodman, lead investigator of the study and professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, said in a statement. "We recommend that women begin taking folic acid supplements starting three months prior to conception. This is an ideal time to refrain from alcohol use as well because you are in the mindset of preparing your body for pregnancy."

Alcohol is associated with an increased risk for mental delays, cardiac anomalies and facial clefting in babies. In a recent study, Loyola researchers also found that alcohol is linked to gastroschisis, a birth defect of the baby's abdominal wall.

For the study, researchers surveyed 36 women who gave birth to babies with gastroschisis and 76 women who did not have infants with this defect. Researchers found no link between gastroschisis and poor maternal nutrition or vasoactive stimulants such as tobacco or illicit drugs.

"Preconception programs focused on alcohol abstinence may help to reverse the increasing incidence of this birth defect worldwide," Goodman said.

The findings were presented recently at the 2014 Society for Reproductive Investigation 61st Annual Scientific Meeting in Florence, Italy.

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