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To investigate the association of prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) and early neurodevelopment in the first 2 years of life, adjusting for maternal socio-demographic and psychosocial factors, in the Drakenstein Child Health Study (DCHS), a South African birth cohort study.
The DCHS comprises a population-based birth cohort of 1143 children, of which a subsample completed the Bayley Scales of Infant Development-III (BSID-III) at 6 (n = 260) and 24 months of age (n = 734). A subset of alcohol-exposed and -unexposed children was included in this analysis at age 6 (n = 52 exposed; n = 104 unexposed) and 24 months (n = 92 exposed; n = 184 unexposed). Multiple hierarchical regression was used to explore the associations of PAE with motor and language development.
PAE was significantly associated with decreased gross motor [odds ratio (OR) = 0.16, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.06–0.44, p = 0.001] or fine motor (OR = 0.16, 95% CI = 0.06–0.46, p = 0.001) functioning after adjusting for maternal socio-demographic and psychosocial factors at 6 months of age only. No significant effects were found in either receptive or expressive communication and cognitive outcomes at either time points.
PAE has potentially important consequences for motor development in the first 2 years of life, a period during which the most rapid growth and maturation occur. These findings highlight the importance of identifying high-risk families in order to provide preventive interventions, particularly in antenatal clinics and early intervention services.
Findings from animal studies indicate that the early gut bacteriome is a potential mechanism linking maternal prenatal stress with health trajectories in offspring. However, clinical studies are scarce and the associations of maternal psychological profiles with the early infant faecal bacteriome are unknown. This study aimed to investigate the associations of prenatal stressors and distress with early infant faecal bacterial profiles in a South African birth cohort study.
Associations between prenatal symptoms of depression, distress, intimate partner violence (IPV) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and faecal bacterial profiles were evaluated in meconium and subsequent stool specimens from 84 mothers and 101 infants at birth, and longitudinally from a subset of 69 and 36 infants at 4–12 and 20–28 weeks of age, respectively, in a South African birth cohort study.
Infants born to mothers that were exposed to high levels of IPV had significantly higher proportions of Citrobacter and three unclassified genera, all of which belonging to the family Enterobacteriaceae detected at birth. Proportions of these Enterobacteriaceae remained significantly increased over time (birth to 20–28 weeks of life) in infants born to mothers with high levels of IPV exposure compared to infants from mothers with no/low IPV exposure. Infants born to mothers exposed to IPV also had higher proportions of the genus Weissella at 4–12 weeks compared to infants from mothers with no/low IPV exposure. Faecal specimens from mothers exposed to IPV had higher proportions of the family Lactobacillaceae and lower proportions of Peptostreptococcaceae at birth. Maternal psychological distress was associated with decreased proportions of the family Veillonellaceae in infants at 20–28 weeks and a slower decline in Gammaproteobacteria over time. No changes in beta diversity were apparent for maternal or infant faecal bacterial profiles in relation to any of the prenatal measures for psychological adversities.
Maternal lifetime IPV and antenatal psychological distress are associated with altered bacterial profiles in infant and maternal faecal bacteria. These findings may provide insights in the involvement of the gut bacteria linking maternal psychological adversity and the maturing infant brain.
Neuroimaging studies have indicated that prenatal alcohol exposure is associated with alterations in the structure of specific brain regions in children. However, the temporal and regional specificity of such changes and their behavioural consequences are less known. Here we explore the integrity of regional white matter microstructure in infants with in utero exposure to alcohol, shortly after birth.
Twenty-eight alcohol-exposed and 28 healthy unexposed infants were imaged using diffusion tensor imaging sequences to evaluate white matter integrity using validated tract-based spatial statistics analysis methods. Second, diffusion values were extracted for group comparisons by regions of interest. Differences in fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity (MD), axial diffusivity (AD) and radial diffusivity were compared between groups and associations with measures from the Dubowitz neonatal neurobehavioural assessment were examined.
Lower AD values (p<0.05) were observed in alcohol-exposed infants in the right superior longitudinal fasciculus compared with non-exposed infants. Altered FA and MD values in alcohol-exposed neonates in the right inferior cerebellar were associated with abnormal neonatal neurobehaviour.
These exploratory data suggest that prenatal alcohol exposure is associated with reduced white matter microstructural integrity even early in the neonatal period. The association with clinical measures reinforces the likely clinical significance of this finding. The location of the findings is remarkably consistent with previously reported studies of white matter structural deficits in older children with a diagnosis of foetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
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