Mothers-to-be, take note! Drinking alcohol during pregnancy may increase the risk of developing alcoholism in next three generations, a new study has warned.
Researchers investigated the effects of alcohol consumption during pregnancy on alcohol-related behaviour on generations that were not directly exposed to alcohol in the uterus during the pregnancy.
Pregnant rats received the equivalent of one glass of wine, four days in a row, at gestational days 17-20, the equivalent of the second trimester in humans.
Researchers led by Nicole Cameron, assistant professor of psychology at Binghamton University in New York, then tested juvenile male and female offspring for water or alcohol consumption.
Adolescent males were tested for sensitivity to alcohol by injecting them with a high-alcohol dose, which made them unresponsive (drunk on their back), and measuring the time it took them to recover their senses (back on their four paws).
The results suggest that if a mother drinks during pregnancy, even just a little bit, she increases the risk that her progeny will become alcoholic.
“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,” said Cameron.
“Thus, the offspring are more likely to develop alcoholism. This paper is the first to demonstrate trans-generational effects of alcohol consumption during pregnancy on alcohol-related behaviour in offspring,” said Cameron.
To date, no study has shown a transgenerational effect of prenatal ethanol exposure on ethanol consumption in the second or third generation, researchers said.