12:45am Sunday 22 October 2017

International adoptions: prenatal alcohol exposure in some Eastern European kids

Crédit photo: IStock

Some studies suggest that a third of children adopted from this region are the offspring of alcoholic mothers.

Pediatricians at the Université de Montréal and its affiliated Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Center observed that many had visible signs of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). “FASD is observable in facial characteristics: short eye slits, thin upper lip and sunken nasal bridge,” says Dr. Monique Robert, a pediatrics professor at the Université de Montréal Faculty of Medicine and lead researcher. “Growth deficiencies are another manifestation of FASD.”

Dr. Robert led a team who conducted psychometric tests on 29 children adopted from Russia, Belarus, Romania, Poland, Georgia and the ex-Yugoslavia. On average, such kids were 22-monhs old when they arrived in Canada and they were between four and eight-years old when they were tested for this study.

Half the children suffered growth deficiencies: below average weight as well as size and cranial perimeter. These deficiencies can be the result of disease, nutritional deficiencies, sensory deprivation, genetic factors or prenatal alcohol exposure.

FASD can affect the central nervous system, which in turn will affect neurocognitive abilities, motor skills and cause poor coordination or weaken primary reflexes. Twenty-three of the children had such problems to varying levels.

All children, however, tested normally for memory and abstract reasoning as well as IQ (average 105). Their non-verbal IQ was stronger than their verbal IQ. Overall, only two of the 29 children were physically and neuropsychologically normal.

As the first study of its kind on Eastern European children, the researchers are very prudent in their interpretation of their results. In order to attribute the observed deficiencies to FASD, they would have to know the alcohol consumption of the mother during pregnancy. This data was only available for six of the children whose mothers were severe drinker. The research team also stresses these results can’t be extrapolated to all children from Eastern Europe.

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Media contact:
Sylvain-Jacques Desjardins
International press attaché
Université de Montréal
Telephone: 514-343-7593
Email: sylvain-jacques.desjardins@umontreal.ca


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