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A baby's first stool could predict cognitive problemsTHURSDAY, JULY 16, 2015 15:30 PM

Study of a baby''s first stool can help determine if a mother''s consumption of alcohol will affect her baby''s IQ levels. Consuming healthy foods and drinks while pregnant is vital to the health of a developing baby. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still notes that 1 in 13 pregnant women drink alcohol. According to a new study by Case Western Reserve University Project Newborn researchers, mothers can determine right away if their alcohol consumption affected their child's learning abilities.

How? Researchers discovered that by studying the fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEE) found in a baby's first stool, they can determine if a child is at risk for cognitive problems stemming from a mother's alcohol use. During the study, researchers analyzed the meconium (the first stool) of 216 infants for FAEE, then they gave those children intelligence tests at ages 9, 11 and 15. Overall the study determined there was an association between high FAEE levels and lower IQ scores.

Benefits of the study
Often, doctors are unaware that a child may have had prenatal exposure to alcohol or are unaware of how much exposure they received. Mothers are usually reluctant to admit how much they drank because of the stigma behind it. If a doctor is unaware of a child's learning risks because a mother doesn't admit to drinking, than the child could struggle with learning and reasoning into the teenage years.

Being able to determine how a child's FAEE levels will affect intelligence will enable health professionals to provide early intervention and get children the assistance they need right away. 

Project Newborn
This FAEE study is a part of a larger program known as Project Newborn. According to Case Western Reserve University, Project Newborn aims to follow the social and cognitive developments of babies born to mothers who used substances like cocaine, alcohol and other drugs during pregnancy. For this program, researchers have studied close to 400 children since birth for 20 years.

The project recently received a $2.5 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health, Case Western Reserve University noted. For their new study, researchers with the program plan to observe the challenges the participants they've been studying have now that they are adults.

The information researchers gather from these tests is not only beneficial for parents who used substances while pregnant, but also for parents who may be considering adoption. Reading how these kids have been affected by prenatal exposure can help future parents determine what actions they should take if their own kids are subjected to any harmful substances.


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