The Effects of Alcohol in Pregnancy Last Generations

By now you know that if you choose to drink during pregnancy, you run the risk of harming your baby. But as it turns out, this could affect future generations, too.

The Effects of Alcohol in Pregnancy Last Generations Sam Edwards/Getty Images

You know about the devastating things that can happen when a woman drinks during pregnancy. Her baby's life could well be influenced by this decision: Even if there are no major issues in the child's life, she could be at risk foe a whole slew of problems, including, most recently, difficulty sleeping.

But that's not where it ends.

The link with alcoholism

According to a study from Binghamton University, when a mother drinks during pregnancy, she might be putting the following three generations at greater risk for alcoholism.

The team behind this study, led by Nicole Cameron, Ph.D., was the first to look into the topic of consumption during pregnancy's link to alcohol-related behavior on future generations, according to the release. The researchers observed rats who were given the equivalent of one glass of wine every day four days in a row during pregnancy. They then tested their offspring and grand-offspring for alcohol sensitivity and preference. They were injected with high alcohol doses and observed drunk (which involved them lying on their backs.) The researchers noted how long it took them to recover their senses and get back on all fours. Researchers tend to use rats and mice for testing purposes as they have genetic and behavioral similarities to humans—their anatomies are also well understood by researchers, making them good observational models.

"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," Cameron said. "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 behavior in offspring."

Trans-generational effects

Cameron and her team are set to continue looking into this topic and recently received a grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. They hope to make greater conclusions about the trans-generational effects of gestational alcohol exposure.

"We now need to identify how this effect is pass through multiple generations by investigating the effects alcohol has on the genome and epigenome [molecules that control gene translation]," said Cameron.

While we need more research to really understand how long-ranging the effects of gestational consumption, but we do know one thing: Drinking while pregnant just doesn't seem worth it.