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Alcohol use in pregnancy and neurocognitive outcomes in contemporary New Zealand cohort: analysis of the Growing Up in New Zealand cohort at 8 years

Surveys and population-based studies demonstrate that around one in five New Zealand women report drinking during pregnancy.

Prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) presents a direct risk to the developing fetus for neurocognitive and other harms, sometimes manifesting in childhood as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

For this reason, New Zealand guidelines advise that there is no known safe level of maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

Researchers used data from the Growing Up in New Zealand (GUiNZ) eight-year-old cohort to explore the effect of PAE on neurocognitive development.

A systemic review of 30 longitudinal studies similar to GUiNZ was also carried out to support the findings.

Findings and Future Considerations

The limited nature of the data meant it was difficult to identify differences between children who were exposed to alcohol in utero and those who weren’t.

The additional systemic reviews showed mixed results across domains. However, the weight of evidence demonstrated an adverse effect on the child if alcohol is consumed during pregnancy.

This ambiguity lines up with New Zealand health recommendations that there is no known safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

Accurate measuring is also difficult due to known under reporting of alcohol during pregnancy and the difficulty in self reporting in this area.

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