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Drinking alcohol during pregnancy changes the baby's brain, study finds

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy changes the baby's brain, study finds

Drinking small amounts of alcohol during pregnancy can change the structure of the baby's brain and delay its brain development, according to a new study in Austria.

Scientists analyzed MRI scans of fetuses whose mothers had reported drinking alcohol during pregnancy, comparing them with scans of babies whose mothers did not drink alcohol.

They found that even in cases of low-level alcohol exposure, the changes in brain structure were large.

It is widely advised by experts and health organizations that pregnant women avoid alcohol, due to the known risk of harm to the fetus.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause conditions called fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, which can lead to learning difficulties, behavioral problems or speech delays.

The researchers behind the study warned that many pregnant women are still unaware of the possible effects of alcohol on the baby during pregnancy.

For the study, researchers analyzed MRI scans of 24 fetuses that had been exposed to alcohol.

"Fetal MRI is a highly specialized and safe screening method that allows us to make precise statements about brain maturation before birth," said Gregor Kasprian, an associate professor of radiology at the Medical University of Vienna.