Pattern of malformation in offspring of chronic alcoholic mothers

Lancet. 1973 Jun 9;1(7815):1267-71. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(73)91291-9.


PIP: Case histories are presented of 8 unrelated children born to mothers who were chronic alcoholics. These children showed a similar pattern of craniofacial, limb, and cardiovascular defects associated with prenatal-onset growth deficiency and developmental delay. This is the 1st report to document an association between maternal alcoholism and aberrant morphogenesis in the offspring. The mean duration of maternal alcoholism was 9.4 years. 3 of the cases were black, 3 were Native American, and 2 were white. The mean gestational age was 38 weeks. The degree of linear growth deficiency was more severe than the deficit of weight at birth, suggesting that a factor other than maternal undernutrition alone affected prenatal growth. Developmental delay, prenatal and postnatal growth deficiency, and short palbebral fissures were observed in all 8 children. 7 of the 8 children also demonstrated microcephaly and maxillary hypoplasia with relative prognathism. 6 had an altered palmar crease pattern, 5 showed cardiac and joint anomalies, and 4 had epicanthal folds. Although adequate nutrition was provided to the children during hospital admission and/or foster care placement, no catch-up growth was observed. After 1 year, the average linear growth rate was 65% of normal and the average rate of weight gain was only 38% of normal. By 1 year, head circumference fell below the 3rd percentile for height and chronological age in 5 of the 6 children in whom measurements were taken. Fine motor dysfunction was present in 5 of the 6 children tested, and most were delayed in gross motor performance as well. The similarity in pattern of malformation noted among these 8 children suggests a singular mode of etiology related to an as yet unknown effect of maternal alcoholism. Direct ethanol toxicity is the most likely possibility.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholism*
  • Apgar Score
  • Birth Weight
  • Black People
  • Blepharoptosis / etiology
  • Cephalometry
  • Chronic Disease
  • Congenital Abnormalities / etiology*
  • Ductus Arteriosus, Patent / etiology
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Growth Disorders / etiology
  • Heart Septal Defects, Atrial / etiology
  • Heart Septal Defects, Ventricular / etiology
  • Hip Dislocation, Congenital / etiology
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Maternal Age
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange
  • Maxillary Diseases / etiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications*
  • White People