Maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy associates with bone fractures in early childhood. A birth-cohort study of 6718 participants


The association of maternal alcohol usage during pregnancy on children’s fractures was studied.
The material was taken from a birth cohort including 6718 subjects.
Maternal prenatal alcohol usage was associated with increased risk of in-hospital-treated fractures.


Fractures are common injuries in children, but their underlying biological and environmental risk factors are not well known. Maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy is a known risk factor for bone malformations and impaired growth, in connection with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). There is evidence that even lower doses of alcohol than what is needed for FASD can cause changes in the developing bone. Birth weight and length may also associate to childhood fractures. The aim of this study was to find out whether there exist associations between maternal alcohol use during pregnancy, birth weight or length and fractures of the long bones in childhood.

A prospective birth cohort was performed, including all women in Northern Finland with an expected date of delivery between July 1985 and June 1986, and their offspring (N = 9432). The National Hospital Discharge Register (NHDR) provided the information on inpatient treated fractures. The subjects who declined participation or were treated as outpatient were excluded. The final study population consisted of 6718 children (71.2%). 98 (1.5%) of them suffered from inpatient treated fracture of a long bone (N = 105). Maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy was inquired by questionnaires during late pregnancy or shortly after parturition. The birth length and weight were recorded immediately after birth.

Binomial regression analysis was used to determine the association between the potential explanatory variables and bone fractures. Gender, socioeconomic status of the family, maternal age, premature birth, body mass index (BMI) of the children and maternal smoking during pregnancy were taken as possible confounders.

In this study, the maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy was associated to 2.22-fold (CI 1.09–4.12, p < 0.02) increased risk of a long bone fracture before the age of eight. Birth weight or length did not associate to childhood fractures.

Bone fractures are an important cause of morbidity in childhood. Their prevention should start from the prenatal period by protecting the fetus from the alcohol exposure.

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