Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can subtly influence the way a baby’s face is formed, researchers have found.
The finding includes even drinking at low levels such as the occasional drink.
Using a 3D facial analysis, features observed were subtle and not visible to the naked eye, being less than 2mm.
However, the researchers did observe small changes to the mid-face – the nose, lips and eyes – of babies who were exposed to any alcohol from the first trimester of pregnancy.
According to Mirror, the findings which researchers said also raises questions about brain development – come out of a study of 415 babies who had 3D photographs taken of their faces at the age of one.
Researchers at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute asked the mums of the babies about their drinking habits before and during their pregnancies.
The differences between children exposed or not to alcohol were analysed with the Medical Imaging Research Centre at the University of Leuven in Belgium.
A co-lead author, Harry Matthews, said: “We used a sophisticated 3D facial analysis technique, mapping something like 7,000 individual dot points on the face.”
One of the study’s lead authors, Evi Muggli, said: “We know that alcohol use in pregnancy contributes to how the face is formed in the womb.
“We found when analysing the detailed images in our study, that any alcohol in pregnancy, even low amounts can subtly influence facial development.”
Advice for mums-to-be
The safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all if you are trying to conceive, could conceive or are already pregnant.
If you did consume alcohol before you knew it was best to avoid it, the risk of your baby being harmed is very low.
Talk to your GP, obstetrician or midwife about any concerns you may have.