Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New research reinforces danger of drinking alcohol while pregnant

Date:
February 14, 2014
Source:
Manchester University
Summary:
Women who drink alcohol at moderate or heavy levels in the early stages of their pregnancy might damage the growth and function of their placenta – the organ responsible for supplying everything that a developing infant needs until birth - research shows. Placentas studied in a laboratory environment showed that drinking alcohol at moderate (2/3 standard drinks) to high (4-6 standard drinks) rates reduced the cell growth in a woman’s placenta.

Women who drink alcohol at moderate or heavy levels in the early stages of their pregnancy might damage the growth and function of their placenta -- the organ responsible for supplying everything that a developing infant needs until birth -- research at The University of Manchester shows.

Placentas studied in a laboratory environment showed that drinking alcohol at moderate (2/3 standard drinks) to high (4-6 standard drinks) rates reduced the cell growth in a woman's placenta.

The research, published in the journal PLoS One and funded by the British Medical Association, investigated the effect of alcohol and its major toxic breakdown product, acetaldehyde, had on the placenta in the first few weeks -- a period essential for normal development where three primary germ cell layers in the very early infant develop into internal organs.

While placental cell growth was reduced at mid and heavy drinking levels, the cells that ensure the placenta attaches to the mother were unaffected. Alcohol at very low concentrations (1-2units, equal to half or one standard drink) did not have any effect on growth or function. Scientists also found alcohol at moderate to heavy levels reduced the transport of an important amino acid -- known as taurine -- from mother to baby via the placenta.

Taurine is vital for brain and physiological development. However, acetaldehyde did not have any effect on the transportation of taurine suggesting alcohol is the main culprit. Reduced taurine has been shown to have negative effects on behaviour and physical development, so this might explain why some neurological symptoms are seen in children of alcoholic mothers, the researchers conclude.

Sylvia Lui, from the Tommy's Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre based at The University of Manchester who carried out the research, said: "Alcohol and acetaldehyde are known to be toxic at high levels, but these results clearly show that levels easily achieved in a normal population have specific effects in the placenta.

"Placental growth is reduced in comparison to non-exposed placentas, suggesting that in the long-term, there could be consequences to how much support the infant receives from the placenta during the rest of the pregnancy after this exposure."

Dr Clare Tower, consultant obstetrician at Saint Mary's Hospital part of Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: "Though low levels of alcohol did not have a harmful effect, moderate to high levels were damaging. The safest clinical advice would be to agree with the current Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology guidelines and abstain.

This is because UK studies show that there is still a lot of confusion in the perception of what alcohol 'units' are, as well as a lack of accurate self-monitoring of drinking levels.

Professor John Aplin, Professor of Reproductive Biomedicine in the Tommy's Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre at the University, said "This research also suggests that women who are trying to conceive should not drink as the damage caused by alcohol can happen very early on in pregnancy -- perhaps before a woman knows she is pregnant."

Jane Brewin, Chief Executive of baby charity Tommy's, said: "It can often be a few weeks before a woman discovers she's pregnant, and this research shows that moderate drinking during those vital first weeks can have a big impact on the development of the baby.

"Many pregnancies are unplanned, but for those actively planning a family this research raises questions about whether women should consider their alcohol intake even before they fall pregnant."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Manchester University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Sylvia Lui, Rebecca L. Jones, Nathalie J. Robinson, Susan L. Greenwood, John D. Aplin, Clare L. Tower. Detrimental Effects of Ethanol and Its Metabolite Acetaldehyde, on First Trimester Human Placental Cell Turnover and Function. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (2): e87328 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0087328

Cite This Page:

Manchester University. "New research reinforces danger of drinking alcohol while pregnant." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 February 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140214075439.htm>.
Manchester University. (2014, February 14). New research reinforces danger of drinking alcohol while pregnant. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140214075439.htm
Manchester University. "New research reinforces danger of drinking alcohol while pregnant." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140214075439.htm (accessed August 30, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

3 Things To Know About The Ebola Outbreak's Progression

3 Things To Know About The Ebola Outbreak's Progression

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) Here are three things you need to know about the deadly Ebola outbreak's progression this week. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) State health officials say testing has confirmed the presence of a killer amoeba in a water system serving three St. John the Baptist Parish towns. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Who Could Be Burnt by WHO's E-Cigs Move?

Who Could Be Burnt by WHO's E-Cigs Move?

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 28, 2014) The World Health Organisation has called for the regulation of electronic cigarettes as both tobacco and medical products. Ciara Lee looks at the impact of the move on the tobacco industry. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
CDC Director On Ebola Outbreak: 'It's Worse Than I Feared'

CDC Director On Ebola Outbreak: 'It's Worse Than I Feared'

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) CDC director Tom Frieden says the Ebola outbreak is even worse than he feared. But he also said there's still hope to contain it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins