Alcohol could change your unborn baby’s genetic make-up, suggests study

Too many UK babies still being born with health problems caused by drugs, alcohol and smoking, say doctors

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Drinking alcohol in pregnancy could change the genetic make-up of your unborn baby, according to new research. We already know heavy alcohol consumption, as well as smoking and drug taking, puts unborn babies at risk, but a new study has helped doctors understand what actually happens to the baby when it is exposed.

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The study discovered that exposure to alcohol changes the number of chromosomes in the brains of mice, and doctors believe the same could happen in human brains.

“One possibility was that drugs or alcohol could alter the fabric of the developing brain and that would manifest later on as various disabilities,” said neuroscientist Jerold Chun.

This comes as doctors warn that smoking and drinking in pregnancy is still harming 10,000 babies each year. Reportedly, as many as 18% of mums-to-be are still binge drinking during their pregnancy.

“These are difficult things to give up,” explains Professor Terence Stephenson, from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. “We still see worrying numbers of women in pregnancy exposing their children to harmful substances. We’re a developed country yet these are avoidable causes of child harm and death and we as paediatricians would like not to see them at all. You can choose not to smoke, not to drink.”

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