DAD’S drinking habits before pregnancy can damage the faces of their babies, research suggests.
This is because alcohol can cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), which affects facial growth in the womb and damages the brain.
It’s usually associated with mums-to-be boozing during pregnancy.
Previous research has shown maternal drinking can result in a slightly shorter, more upturned nose in children, this study also links it to alcohol before conception in dads.
Study author, Professor Michael Golding a developmental physiologist from Texas A&M University, said: “When it was the dad drinking, we saw a profound shift in the organisation of the face.”
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“Chronic male alcohol exposure (defined as consuming more than five drinks per day in a four-hour window) could drive core fetal alcohol syndrome birth defects,” he added.
Offspring of men who drank were more likely to have smaller eyes, squished faces, and smaller mouths – meaning adult teeth were more crowded, the experts found.
Their ears were further down their head, compared to babies whose dads did not drink heavily, and their jaws were defective.
They were also more at risk of microcephaly, the underdevelopment of the head and brain, as well as lower birth weight, which became worse the more the male parent drank.
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Clinical studies also suggest that paternal drinking increases the risk of killer heart defects in people.
Up to 2.4million people were believed to have had FASD in the UK in 2020.
The condition causes slower growth and brain problems, with a noticeable effect on how faces develop in the womb.
Previous studies have suggested it is caused by drinking during pregnancy, particularly heavy sessions.
The 7 ways dad’s boozing habits can affect unborn babies
Studies suggest FASD can lead to:
1. Smaller eyes
2. Squished face
3. Smaller mouths (crowded teeth)
4. Underdevelopment of the head and brain
5. Lower birth weight
6. Increased risk of drug-seeking tendencies
7. Heart defects
Professor Michael urged both parents to commit to limiting or cutting their alcohol consumption before trying to become pregnant.
He is also calling on Governments to change warning labels on booze bottles to include male risk.
“Change the alcohol warning label to remove the maternal emphasis and put it on both parents to say, ‘The decision to consume this beverage can have significant, life-changing consequences to a future child,” he said.
The latest research, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, looked at the effects on mice when the dad mouse consumed alcohol.
The experts used artificial intelligence to construct a mouse’s face, off the back of a previous study in humans.
It digitally assigned facial features including specific parts of the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth.
The computer then determined if it was mum and dad’s alcohol exposures that affected these facial changes.
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Government statistics, however, reveal that one in 10 women admit to having some alcohol in the past week.
The guidance states that healthcare professionals should “record the number and types of alcoholic drinks consumed, as well as the pattern and frequency of drinking” for a pregnant woman.