Child's Nervous System

, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 433–439 | Cite as

Head circumference at birth and exposure to tobacco, alcohol and illegal drugs during early pregnancy

  • Juan A. Ortega-García
  • Jorge E. Gutierrez-Churango
  • Miguel F. Sánchez-Sauco
  • Miguel Martínez-Aroca
  • Juan L. Delgado-Marín
  • M. Sánchez-Solis
  • J. J. Parrilla-Paricio
  • Luz Claudio
  • Juan F. Martínez-Lage
Original Paper



We aimed to assess the effects of exposure to tobacco smoke, alcohol and illegal drugs during early pregnancy on the head circumference (HC) at birth of otherwise healthy neonates.


A follow-up study from the first trimester of pregnancy to birth was carried out in 419 neonates. An environmental reproductive health form was used to record data of substance exposure obtained during the first obstetric visit at the end of the first trimester. A multiple linear regression model was created for this purpose.


Alcohol intake during pregnancy and medical ionizing radiation exposure were the most significant predictors of HC. The mothers’ alcohol consumption increased with the mothers’ and fathers’ education level, net family income and fathers’ alcohol consumption. In contrast, maternal smoking decreased with increasing mothers’ and fathers’ education level and net family income. About 13% of the surveyed embryos were exposed to illegal drugs.


Mild to moderate alcohol consumption diminishes the at-birth HC of theoretically healthy newborns in a linear form. There was no threshold dose. We perceived a need for increasing the awareness, and for training, of health care professionals and parents, in regard to risks of alcohol consumption and for recommending abstinence of these substances in both parents during pregnancy. It should also be remembered that medical ionizing radiation should be performed only during the first half of the cycle in fertile women. We think that our study has an important social impact as it affords data for implementing policies for promoting “healthy pregnancies”.


Pregnancy Ethanol Smoking Illegal drugs Anthropometry Neonate Healthy pregnancies 



The authors would like to thank the Mount Sinai International Exchange Program for Minority Students for help and support. Their work was supported by grant MD001452 from the National Centre on Minority Health and Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health. The authors wish also to express their gratitude to ARGOS NATO Project supported by the Foundation for Formation and Research (FFIS) from Murcia’s Drug Commissioner Office and the National Plan on Drugs, Ministry of Health, Spain.


The authors state having no conflict of interest regarding the production and publication of this work.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Juan A. Ortega-García
    • 1
  • Jorge E. Gutierrez-Churango
    • 1
  • Miguel F. Sánchez-Sauco
    • 1
  • Miguel Martínez-Aroca
    • 1
  • Juan L. Delgado-Marín
    • 2
  • M. Sánchez-Solis
    • 3
  • J. J. Parrilla-Paricio
    • 4
  • Luz Claudio
    • 5
  • Juan F. Martínez-Lage
    • 6
  1. 1.Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty UnitVirgen de la Arrixaca University HospitalEl PalmarSpain
  2. 2.Fetal Medicine Unit, Department of Obstetrics and GynecologyVirgen de la Arrixaca University HospitalEl PalmarSpain
  3. 3.Department of PediatricVirgen de la Arrixaca University HospitalEl PalmarSpain
  4. 4.Department of Obstetrics and GynecologyVirgen de la Arrixaca University HospitalEl PalmarSpain
  5. 5.Department of Community MedicineMount Sinai School of MedicineNew YorkUSA
  6. 6.Regional Service of Neurosurgery, Grupo de Investigación en Neurocirugía (GRIN)Virgen de la Arrixaca University HospitalEl PalmarSpain

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