Mothers Who Drink Alcohol Beware

by Ren Chats

Infants of Mothers Who Drink Alcohol Are at Risk of Sudden Death

Infants of Mothers Who Drink Alcohol Are at Risk of Sudden Death

Incidence of sudden infant deaths (SIDS) is several folds higher in babies of mothers who drink alcohol during pregnancy or during first year of childbirth.

Alcohol consumption during pregnancy is well known to be injurious to fetal development in several irreversible ways. SIDS, sudden infant death syndrome, is now added to the list.

What is SIDS?

SIDS is defined as sudden death of an infant within first year of life for which the cause cannot be explained even after a thorough medical work up including a complete autopsy, examination of the death scene, and review of the clinical history.

SIDS is one of the major cause of infant deaths all over the world to which no specific cause can be attributed. Therefore the search for the cause continues. Second hand smoke is another preventable cause attributed to SIDS.

The study

Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia conducted an extensive study over twenty years (1983 to 2005) on 77,895 mothers; 21,841 diagnosed heavy drinkers and 56,054 mothers without the diagnosis.

The results of the study emphasize that mothers who drink alcohol imposes increased risk not only of SIDS, but also of infant mortality excluding SIDS: The mothers who drink alcohol during pregnancy were at twofold higher risk of their infant’s death that excluded SIDS. The chances of SIDS was found to be nine fold higher compared to infants of mothers who did not consume alcohol.


The incidence of sudden infant deaths for no known cause in the United States alone is more than 4,500 per year, and half of them are attributed to SIDS. Maternal alcohol-use disorder contributes to 1 in 6 of SIDS and 3.4 percent of infant deaths that are sudden and unexpected, but not classified as SIDS.

In earlier studies, alcohol consumption during pregnancy has been shown to mar the brain development, which could explain compromised breathing regulating mechanism. Moreover, the lifestyle of mothers who drink alcohol could be creating an unsafe environmental conditions for their infant.


Maternal Alcohol Use and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and Infant Mortality Excluding SIDS: Colleen M. O’Leary, Peter J. Jacoby, Anne Bartu, Heather D’Antoine, and Carol Bower.Pediatrics 2013 Mar;131(3):e770-8. doi: 10.1542/peds.2012-1907

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