Identifying maternal risk factors associated with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders: a systematic review


To identify the demographic, psychological, and social maternal risk factors associated with the development of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). A bibliographic search was conducted in PubMed, SciELO, Lilacs, Web of Knowledge, and PsycINFO. The Newcastle–Ottawa Quality Assessment Scale (NOS) was used to evaluate the quality of the studies with case–control design. Articles were selected based on their relevance and presentation of data related to statistical comparisons of at least one or more demographic, psychological, or social maternal risk factors for FASD. 738 references were identified, of which 15 met the criteria to be included in the present review. Mothers of FASD children tend to: be older at the time of birth of the affected child, present lower educational level, have other family relatives with alcohol abuse, have other children with FASD, present a pattern of little prenatal care and a distinguishing pattern of alcohol consumption (alcohol use before and during pregnancy, failure to reduce alcohol use during pregnancy, and frequent episodes of binge drinking). Application of the NOS scale of methodological quality indicated that 8 studies (53 %) met the criterion for selection, 4 (27 %) were suitable for the criterion for comparability and only 4 studies were suitable for the exposition criterion. Mothers of FASD children have a distinctive pattern of drinking and accumulate several social risk factors. Maternal age at birth of the child seems to accentuate the risk. There are, however, few controlled studies that are adequate according to the NOS requirements for methodological quality. Fewer are based on the verification of a theoretical model. Clinicians should be aware of the relevance of preventive assessment of FASD risk mothers.

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CAPES Foundation (Brazilian Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel, Ministry of Education) provided a PhD grant for Larissa Horta Esper. The authors greatly acknowledge Prof. Hendree E. Jones, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, for her contribution with many suggestions for the improvement of the manuscript.

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On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Erikson Felipe Furtado.

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Esper, L.H., Furtado, E.F. Identifying maternal risk factors associated with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders: a systematic review. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 23, 877–889 (2014).

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  • Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome
  • Alcohol drinking
  • Maternal risk factors
  • Systematic review
  • Research quality assessment