Prenatal alcohol exposure and childhood balance ability: findings from a UK birth cohort study

Rachel Humphriss, Amanda Hall, Margaret May, Luisa Zuccolo, John Macleod

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: To investigate the association of prenatal alcohol exposure with balance in10-year-old children.

DESIGN: Population-based prospective longitudinal study.

SETTING: Former Avon region of UK (Southwest England).

PARTICIPANTS: 6915 children from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children who had a balance assessment at age 10 and had data on maternal alcohol consumption.

OUTCOME MEASURES: 3 composite balance scores: dynamic balance (beam-walking), static balance eyes open, static balance eyes closed (heel-to-toe balance on a beam and standing on one leg, eyes open or closed).

RESULTS: Most mothers (95.5%) consumed no-to-moderate amounts (3-7 glasses/week) of alcohol during pregnancy. Higher total-alcohol consumption was associated with maternal-social advantage, whereas binge drinking (≥4 units/day) and abstinence were associated with maternal social disadvantage. No evidence was found of an adverse effect of maternal-alcohol consumption on childhood balance. Higher maternal-alcohol use during pregnancy was generally associated with better offspring outcomes, with some specific effects appearing strong (static balance eyes open and moderate total alcohol exposure at 18 weeks, adjusted OR 1.23 (95% CI 1.01 to 1.49); static balance eyes closed and moderate total alcohol exposure at 18 weeks, adjusted OR 1.25 (95% CI 1.06 to 1.48). Similar results were found for both paternal and postnatal maternal alcohol exposure. A Mendelian-randomization approach was used to estimate the association between maternal genotype and offspring balance using the non-synonymous variant rs1229984*A (ADH1B) to proxy for lower maternal alcohol consumption; no strong associations were found between this genotype/proxy and offspring balance.

CONCLUSIONS: No evidence was found to indicate that moderate maternal alcohol consumption in this population sample had an adverse effect on offspring balance at age 10. An apparent beneficial effect of higher total maternal alcohol consumption on offspring balance appeared likely to reflect residual confounding.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere002718
Number of pages8
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jun 2013

Bibliographical note

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial License, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non commercial and is otherwise in compliance with the license. See: and


Dive into the research topics of 'Prenatal alcohol exposure and childhood balance ability: findings from a UK birth cohort study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this