Prenatal alcohol exposure and its repercussion on newborns

A. Baña, M.J. Tabernero, A. Pérez-Muñuzuri, O. López-Suárez, S. Dosil, P. Cabarcos, A. Bermejo, J.M. Fraga, M. Luz Couce∗ | JNPM 2014;

Abstract. BACKGROUND: Alcohol consumption during pregnancy, even when moderate, implies a risk of impaired neurodevelopment, physical impairments and malformations. Its early identification is essential for establishing preventive measures to diminish disabilities among newborns. METHODS: To determine the frequency of consumption of substance use in pregnant women, we have used the techniques of gas chromatography/mass spectrometry and liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry to detect drugs and markers of chronic consumption of alcohol in meconium. We performed a prospective study during a period of 10 months among 110 infants in our hospital, assessing anthropometry, neuromuscular development and determination of toxic substances in urine and meconium. Furthermore, meconium analysis identified fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEEs) and ethyl glucuronide (Etg). We also conducted a survey regarding the obstetric history, toxic habits, and employment status of the mothers. RESULTS: According to early detection markers analyzed in meconium (FAEE >1000 ng/g and/or Etg >50 ng/g meconium), 34.65% of pregnant women consumed alcohol during pregnancy, and 17% were positive for both markers. Within the positive cases, 50% of those exceeding a FAEE's value of 5000 ng/g in meconium had low birth-weight children. Only 5/110 mothers (4.5%) admitted to occasional alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Nobody admitted to frequent intake. The cocaine test was positive in three cases; two of them were positive for alcohol as well. CONCLUSION: As expected, many screening devices do not accurately capture use during pregnancy and supplemental methods such as meconium analysis of biomarkers of chronic alcohol consumption may be warranted.

*Corresponding Author: 

Dr. Mª Luz Couce, Departamento de Pediatria, Hospital Cl´ınico Universit´ario de Santiago de Compostela, A Choupana, s/n◦. 15706 Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Tel.: +34 981 950 167; E-mail: