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Loyola research links alcohol use before pregnancy to intestinal birth defect

MAYWOOD, Ill. (April 30, 2014) – Women should refrain from drinking alcohol before they try to become pregnant, according to maternal-fetal medicine specialists at Loyola University Health System.

“A woman can conceive at any point in her cycle, so women should avoid alcohol well in advance of becoming pregnant,” said Jean Goodman, MD, lead investigator, division director of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Loyola University Health System. “We recommend that women begin taking folic acid supplements starting three months prior to conception. This is an ideal time to refrain from alcohol use as well because you are in the mindset of preparing your body for pregnancy."

Alcohol is associated with an increased risk for mental delays, cardiac anomalies and facial clefting in babies. In a recent study, Loyola researchers also found that alcohol is linked to gastroschisis, a birth defect of the baby’s abdominal wall. These data were presented recently at the 2014 Society for Gynecological Reproductive Investigation 61st Annual Scientific Meeting in Florence, Italy.

Researchers surveyed 36 women who gave birth to babies with gastroschisis and 76 women who did not have infants with this defect. They found an association between gastroschisis and alcohol use one month prior to conception and during the first trimester before women knew they were pregnant. They also revealed that gastroschisis occurs in women of all ages, races and financial means. Researchers found no link between gastroschisis and poor maternal nutrition or vasoactive stimulants such as tobacco or illicit drugs.

Gastroschisis is typically identified during an ultrasound. These pregnancies are monitored closely to ensure the unborn baby remains healthy. Plans are made for a careful delivery and surgery for the infant at the time of birth. While the prognosis is good for these babies following surgery, the rising prevalence of gastroschisis is a global health concern.

“Preconception programs focused on alcohol abstinence may help to reverse the increasing incidence of this birth defect worldwide,” said Dr. Goodman, who also is a professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

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