A study from UC San Diego found that a higher number of children may have been affected by pregnant moms' drinking than was previously estimated.
Christina Chambers, PhD, MPH, co-principal investigator of the study, said the study examined the prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD).
“Our results suggest that the rate of FASD in children in the United States is as high or higher than autism spectrum disorders (ASD),” Chambers said, in a statement.
The study found that anywhere between 11 to 50 children per 1,000 in a region could have FASD, said UCSD Health officials. Previous data estimated the frequency as 10 per 1,000 children in the U.S.
“Our findings suggest that FASD is a critical health problem that often goes undiagnosed and misdiagnosed,” Chambers said.
FASD is an umbrella term for the range of effects a child can experience whose mother drank alcohol while pregnant, according to UC San Diego Health officials. Some common effects include a small head, below average weight and height, difficulty with learning as well as behavioral problems.
During the study, 222 children were diagnosed with FASD. Out of that group, only two had been previously diagnosed although their relatives were often aware of their learning and behavioral challenges, said officials.
The study examined four regions, recruiting first-graders across two academic years.
“Although our findings from the four regions may not represent the nation overall, our goal is that the estimates will contribute to strategies that will expand screening, prevention and treatment options for FASD,” Chambers said.
A survey by the U.S. Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System found that a pattern of binge drinking during pregnancy may indicate the highest risk for FASD.
“It is imperative that we find a solution to this devastating health issue," added Chambers.