Prenatal alcohol exposure, birthweight, and measures of child size from birth to age 14 years

Am J Public Health. 1994 Sep;84(9):1421-8. doi: 10.2105/ajph.84.9.1421.


Objectives: The purpose of the study was to examine the effect of prenatal alcohol exposure on offspring's weight, height, and head circumference from birth through 14 years of age.

Methods: This longitudinal prospective study examined a cohort of approximately 500 offspring (oversampled for heavier drinkers and stratified for smoking from a population of 1529 women in prenatal care at the 5th gestational month) at birth; 8 and 18 months; and 4, 7, and 14 years of age. Covariates were examined by means of multiple regression. Birth size measures were also examined as predictors of 7-year neurodevelopmental outcomes.

Results: Effects of alcohol were observed on weight, length, and head circumference at birth; these effects were not altered by adjustment for covariates including smoking. However, the birthweight effect is clearly transient: although alcohol effects remained observable at 8 months, they were not measurable thereafter through age 14 years.

Conclusions: In this population-based sample, neither birthweight nor any later size measure was as useful an indicator of the enduring effects of prenatal alcohol exposure as were certain neurodevelopmental outcomes.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Alcohol Drinking*
  • Anthropometry
  • Birth Weight / drug effects*
  • Body Height / drug effects
  • Cephalometry
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Ethanol / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Growth / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Regression Analysis


  • Ethanol