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Gross motor skill (movements using large muscle groups and whole body movement (i.e. walking, balancing, throwing, etc.) is an area of impairment that has been found in numerous FASD research studies.  Recently, Lucas et al. (2014) completed a systematic review of 14 articles examining several areas of gross motor deficit in children with FASD or moderate to heavy prenatal alcohol exposure (a meta analysis was completed with 10 of the 14 articles).

Upon meta-analysis, the authors found that a diagnosis of FASD was associated with gross motor impairment in balance, ball skills, and coordination. Exposure to moderate to heavy  or binge drinking levels of alcohol (without an FASD diagnosis) was not necessarily significantly associated with gross motor impairment, however individual studies did find some gross motor impairment in this group. When the subjects diagnosed with an FASD were combined with the subjects with moderate to heavy  or binge drinking levels of alcohol (without FASD diagnosis), pooled results showed that alcohol exposure was associated with GM impairment.

Based on meta-analysis, the odds of GM impairment are tripled for children with an FASD diagnosis or moderate to heavy binge drinking exposure during pregnancy. Findings of GM impairment were consistent regardless of which assessment tool was used.

You can access this article here. the abstract is available free of charge, however you must be a subscriber or pay a “per article” fee to read the full article.

Paper Reference:

Lucas BR, Latimer, J,  Pinto RZ, Ferreira ML, Doney R, Lau M, Jones T, Dries D, Elliott EJ. Gross Motor Deficits in Children Prenatally Exposed to Alcohol: A Meta-analysis. Pediatrics. 2014;134(1):e192-209

The 14 studies reviewed for this paper were: 

Adnams CM, Kodituwakku PW, Hay A, Molteno CD, Viljoen D, May PA. Patterns of cognitive motor development in children with fetal alcohol syndrome from a community in South Africa. [Erratum appears in Alcohol Clin Exp Res 2001 Aug;25(8):1187] Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2001;25(4):557–562

Aronson M, Kyllerman M, Sabel KG, Sandin B, Olegård R. Children of alcoholic mothers. Developmental, perceptual and behavioural characteristics as compared to matched controls. Acta Paediatr Scand. 1985;74(1):27–35

Autti-Rämö I, Granström ML. The effect of intrauterine alcohol exposition in various durations on early cognitive development. Neuropediatrics. 1991;22(4):203–210

Barr HM, Streissguth AP, Darby BL, Sampson PD. Prenatal exposure to alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, and aspirin: Effects on fine and gross motor performance in 4-year-old children. Dev Psychol. 1990;26(3):339–348

Bay B, Støvring H, Wimberley T, et al. Low to moderate alcohol intake during pregnancy and risk of psychomotor deficits. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2012;36(5):807–814

Coles CD, Smith IE, Falek A. Prenatal alcohol exposure and infant behavior: immediate effects and implications for later development. Adv Alcohol Subst Abuse. 1987;6(4):87–104

Davies L, Dunn M, Chersich M, et al. Developmental delay of infants and young children with and without fetal alcohol spectrum disorder in the Northern Cape Province, South Africa. Afr J Psychiatry (Johannesbg). 2011;14(4):298–305

Jirikowic TL, McCoy SW, Lubetzky-Vilnai A, et al. Sensory control of balance: a comparison of children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders to children with typical development. J Popul Ther Clin Pharmacol. 2013;20(3):e212–e228

Kesmodel US, Bay B, Wimberley T, Eriksen HLF, Mortensen EL. Does binge drinking during early pregnancy increase the risk of psychomotor deficits? Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2013;37(7):1204–1212

Kooistra L, Ramage B, Crawford S, et al. Can attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder be differentiated by motor and balance deficits? Hum Mov Sci. 2009;28(4):529–542

Kyllerman M, Aronson M, Sabel KG, Karlberg E, Sandin B, Olegård R. Children of alcoholic mothers. Growth and motor performance compared to matched controls. Acta Paediatr Scand. 1985;74(1):20–26

Roebuck TM, Simmons RW, Mattson SN, Riley EP. Prenatal exposure to alcohol affects the ability to maintain postural balance. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 1998;22(1):252–258

Simmons RW, Thomas JD, Levy SS, Riley EP. Motor response programming and movement time in children with heavy prenatal alcohol exposure. Alcohol. 2010;44(4):371–378

Smith IE, Coles CD, Lancaster J, Fernhoff PM, Falek A. The effect of volume and duration of prenatal ethanol exposure on neonatal physical and behavioral development. Neurobehav Toxicol Teratol. 1986;8(4):375–381


Girls, Women, Alcohol, and Pregnancy

CHNET-Works! - Free webinars in Population Health

CHNET-Works! is a project of the Population Health Improvement Research Network at the University of Ottawa. It is a network of networks linking researchers, decision-makers and practitioners in population health and stakeholder sectors from across Canada.

On September 9, 2014 (International FASD Awareness Day), CHNET-Works! will be hosting a “fireside chat” or free webinar on “Awareness of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD): Making the Connections! / Sensibilisation à l’ensemble des troubles causés par l’alcoolisation foetale (ETCAF): Relier les points!”

Learn about the connections and progress of collaborative efforts from three compelling perspectives of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), including:

  • What’s crucial to know about living with FASD and mental health issues– if you’re a parent, care-giver, front line provider or community member;
  • The important role of front line health providers in prevention, and in talking to women about alcohol use throughout life – especially during pregnancy;
  • What exciting new research…

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