A study links dad's alcohol use to heart defects in babies

Researchers may have found a link between alcohol use in fathers and congenital heart defects and developmental problems in newborns, according to a new study.

Congenital heart defects affect nearly 40 thousand of all babies born in the U.S. each year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The new study suggests alcohol use before conception may be a factor in some of those cases.

Fathers who drank during the three months before conception were 44 percent more likely to have babies born with congenital heart disease compared to non-drinkers. If prospective dads were binge drinkers, there was a 52 percent higher likelihood their baby would have a congenital heart defect. Previous research has shown that alcohol exposure changes the DNA in developing sperm and changes sperm activity, although the underlying mechanisms are not yet understood.
For mothers who drank or binge-drank before conception, there was a 16 percent higher risk for their babies, compared to non-drinkers. Health experts suggest mothers should stop consuming alcohol for one year before fertilization and perspective dads should stop drinking for at least six months before conception.

The study was published Thursday in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
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