Researchers analyzed the craniofacial 3D images of 415 white children whose images were all taken before their first birthday. The 415 children who came from drinking mothers showed consistent craniofacial shape characteristics regardless of the mother's drinking habits and regardless if the drinking took place in just the first trimester or throughout the pregnancy.
The differences were compared to children whose mothers who abstained from alcohol consumption. Of those who consumed alcohol, the regions of difference were all concentrated around the midface, nose, lips and eyes. The authors say these children had a "general recession of the midface and superior displacement of the nose, especially the tip of the nose, indicating a shortening of the nose and upturning of the nose tip."
Specifically, differences were most pronounced among children with no exposure and those only with low exposure (less than or equal to 20 grams per sitting and 70 grams per week). For the low exposure children, differences were found in the forehead region. For moderate to high exposure in the first trimester, differences were found in the eyes, midface, chin, and parietal region. For mothers who were binge drinkers, the differences were apparent in the chin.
Researchers say the results suggest even low levels of alcohol consumption can influence the unborn child's craniofacial development and the findings "confirm that the first trimester is a critical period." Researchers say the findings also show mothers who are or may become pregnant are best to avoid alcohol.