Just two alcoholic drinks a month during pregnancy raises children’s risk of having low IQs and attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), new research suggests.
Youngsters whose mothers drank while expecting score six points lower on IQ tests and are more likely to have poor attention skills than those whose mums went teetotal, a German study found.
Such children have 193 mutated genes, which are associated with brain cell development, the research adds.
Previous studies suggest youngsters who were exposed to alcohol in the womb are more likely to suffer from hyperactivity and impulsive actions.
The NHS and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend pregnant women or those trying to conceive abstain from alcohol.
The researchers, from the University Hospital Erlangen, analysed 1,100 pregnant women, with health information being collected during their third trimesters.
The women were told their newborns would be tested for meconium EtG, which is a by-product of alcohol degeneration.
Around 75 per cent of meconium EtG accumulates in foetus’ guts during the last eight weeks of pregnancy.
Due to alcohol also being present in products such as mouthwashes, the researchers set a cut off meconium EtG level that has previously reflected two alcoholic drinks a month.
Between seven and eight years later, 198 of the families agreed to have the same children assessed for their IQs and attention skills.
Attention was measured by recording how long it took for the children to respond to green traffic lights.
DNA samples were also taken from mouth cells in the children.
The findings were published in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience.
This comes after research released in April 2017 suggested more women in the UK drink alcohol while pregnant than the rest of Europe.
Researchers found that 28.5 per cent of women from the UK drink despite knowing they are expecting.
This is a sharp contrast to just 4.1 per cent of Norwegian women.
Pregnant women in the UK are also among the most frequent drinkers, with nearly three per cent admitting to drinking up to two units a week. One unit is the equivalent of a small glass of wine.
Differences in expectant mother’s drinking habits across Europe are thought to be due to varying exposure to educational campaigns and different attitudes to the habit.