Drinking patterns and alcohol-related birth defects

Alcohol Res Health. 2001;25(3):168-74.


The consequences of maternal alcohol use during pregnancy on the outcome of offspring depend, among other factors, on the amount and pattern of alcohol consumption. Animal studies found that bingelike drinking patterns, in which the fetus is exposed to high blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) over relatively short periods of time, are particularly harmful, even if the overall alcohol amount consumed is less than those of more continuous drinking patterns. Long-term studies in humans have confirmed that children of binge-drinking mothers exhibited especially severe cognitive and behavioral deficits. Binge drinking may be particularly harmful because it results in high BACs, may occur during critical periods of brain development, and may be associated with repeated withdrawal episodes.

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Drug-Induced / blood
  • Abnormalities, Drug-Induced / etiology*
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects*
  • Alcoholism / complications*
  • Animals
  • Brain / abnormalities
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / growth & development
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Ethanol / blood
  • Ethanol / poisoning
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Maternal Behavior
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Rats


  • Ethanol