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UC San Diego Research Finds More Children Affected By Fetal Alcohol Disorders Than Previously Thought

Dr. Ken Jones, pediatrician and chief of UC San Diego Medical Center's Divisi...

Credit: Kenny Goldberg

Above: Dr. Ken Jones, pediatrician and chief of UC San Diego Medical Center's Division of Dysmorphology/Teratology, examines a baby for signs of fetal alcohol syndrome in this undated photo.

Fetal alcohol syndrome and other alcohol-related disorders may be more widespread than autism.

That is the conclusion of a new study from UC San Diego.

In the study, the largest of its kind ever conducted in the U.S., researchers screened more than 6,000 first-graders in four different regions of the country.

Researchers found that one to five percent of the children had a fetal alcohol disorder.

Dr. Christina Chambers, co-author of the study and co-director of UC San Diego's Center for Better Beginnings, said it is important to make the comparison between fetal alcohol spectrum disorders and autism.

“Because here’s a disorder that’s at least as common, or more common than autism spectrum disorders, but has not received near the attention, both from the standpoint of early identification, prevention, and treatment for these kids," Chambers said.

Only two of the 222 kids in the study who had a fetal alcohol disorder had been previously diagnosed.

Chambers said these disorders often go undiagnosed.

"The pediatrician or the obstetrician may not know the mother consumed alcohol during pregnancy or how much she drank, and the mother may feel uncomfortable disclosing that,” she explained.

Prenatal alcohol exposure is the leading preventable cause of birth defects and neurological problems.

Doctors say there is no known safe level of alcohol use during pregnancy.

New research from UC San Diego reveals fetal alcohol disorders may be more prevalent than autism.

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