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Alcohol exposure during pregnancy effects multiple generations
Posted in Family, Research, Substance Abuse - 0 Comments


You like the smell of wine, the way it lingers on your tongue, from your very first sip. It seems your infatuation stems from another lifetime. It came a little too naturally to you.

Though you may not be a reincarnated connoisseur, it turns out the proclivity indeed may be prenatal.

A study released late this winter from Binghamton University reveals a pregnant mother’s alcohol drinking – even seldom – has up to three generations of effects. Increased alcohol-related tolerance and consumption is even carried onto generations not directly exposed to alcohol during their own mother’s pregnancy.

Study on generational alcohol effects

Nicole Cameron, Ph.D., is assistant professor of psychology at Binghamton University. In describing the study she led, Cameron explains, ” Our findings show that in the rat, when a mother consumes the equivalent of one glass of wine four times during the pregnancy, her offspring and grand-offspring, up to the third generation, show increased alcohol preference and less sensitivity to alcohol. … Thus, the offspring are more likely to develop alcoholism.”

By now it’s known that steady drinking causes birth defects and fetal alcohol syndrome. The debate is in one word: moderation. Friends, family and even obstetricians give conflicting counsel on how much is not likely to harm the baby. What’s more, it’s hard to refute a mother’s testimonial “I had a drink here and there and my baby came out fine.” However, “fine” is a broad stroke, and anecdotal evidence is not proof.

A clear stance on pregnancy drinking

What is known is that the amount of alcohol dehydrogenase, the enzyme that breaks down alcohol, varies from woman to woman. This is why there’s no hard and fast frequency or ounce limit to drinking while pregnant.

To be clear, according to information compiled by WebMD and reviewed by Laura Martin, M.D., the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Surgeon General and the American Academy of Pediatrics all urge pregnant women to abstain from alcohol.

There’s much trepidation and focus these days on the surrounding effects of autism. That risk is the same with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). The aforementioned national medical authorities all affirm pregnant women who drink alcohol, in any amount, risk their baby having mild to severe FASD problems including:

  • Speech and language delays
  • Learning disabilities
  • Abnormal facial features
  • Small head size

Additional problems due to PASD now include heightened alcoholism risk and lowered sensitivity to alcohol effects; as seen in the transgenerational Binghamton study, which was the first of its kind.

There are other afflictions that can be passed on generationally, but there is a light of hope in clinical studies as well. Epigenetics, simply, is the study of genes that evolve away from inherited negative traits. This means other factors of environment, culture and personal intent can influence how an individual progresses in a type of genetic selective adaptation.

Just because your grandmother and mother drank doesn’t mean you’re doomed; you still have a choice.

If you or a loved one has a dependency on alcohol, Sovereign Health of Arizona can help. We offer comfort, ease of access and cutting-edge treatment that is scientifically customized to completely rehabilitate. Call our 24/7 helpline for more.

About the author

Sovereign Health Group staff writer Kristin Currin-Sheehan is a mindful spirit swimming in metaphysical pools with faith as her compass. Her cover: a 30s-something Cinderella breadwinner of an all-sport blended family. Her repertoire includes writing poetry, lifestyle articles and TV news; editing, radio production and on-camera reporting. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author at

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