Under-recognition of prenatal alcohol effects in infants of known alcohol abusing women

J Pediatr. 1999 Oct;135(4):430-6. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3476(99)70164-2.


Medical records of 124 women and their infants were analyzed for: (1) documentation of maternal alcohol and other substance abuse and (2) evaluation of exposed infants. These results were compared with the study interview and infant examination. More obstetric nurses documented the presence or absence of alcohol and substance abuse than did pediatricians. More women reported using alcohol in the study interview than documented in the medical records. There was slightly better documentation for cocaine use than for alcohol use in the medical records. One of the 19 infants with documentation of maternal alcohol use was noted to have possible alcohol-related features by the pediatrician, in contrast to 7 infants identified by the study examiner. In addition, 2 of these 19 infants were determined by the study examiner to have fetal alcohol syndrome; neither case was diagnosed by the pediatricians. Continued efforts at education regarding the importance of asking about prenatal alcohol exposure and the spectrum of fetal alcohol effects are needed for early diagnosis.

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / diagnosis*
  • Anthropometry
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / diagnosis
  • Facies
  • Female
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / chemically induced
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Medical History Taking
  • Medical Records
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / diagnosis
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnosis
  • Surveys and Questionnaires