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Mother's Drinking May Raise Risk of Infant's Death

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WebMD News from HealthDay

By Kathleen Doheny

HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Feb. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Children of women who are diagnosed with an alcohol disorder during pregnancy or within a year after giving birth have a three-fold higher risk of dying from SIDS -- sudden infant death syndrome -- compared to babies whose mothers do not have alcohol issues, according to a new Australian study.

In the study, a mother's problem drinking was implicated in about one out of every six SIDS deaths, according to the researchers. Alcohol abuse by the mothers was also linked with about 3 percent of the deaths caused by something other than SIDS, the researchers found.

"Maternal alcohol-use disorder is a significant risk factor for SIDS and infant mortality excluding SIDS," wrote researcher Colleen O'Leary, of Curtin University in Perth, and colleagues.

The study was published online Feb. 25 and in the March print issue of the journal Pediatrics

SIDS is defined as the sudden death of an infant less than 1 year old that can't be explained after thoroughly investigating, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Overall, SIDS deaths have dropped by more than half since 1990, the CDC noted. Even so, it is still the leading cause of death among U.S. babies aged 1 month to 1 year.

In 2009, about 2,200 U.S. children died from SIDS. The rate is still disproportionately high among some groups, including American Indians, Alaskan natives and blacks, the Australian researchers said.

Australia has a higher-than-average infant death rate, with more than four of every 1,000 live births affected, according to study background information.

Experts have known that certain risk factors increase the chances of SIDS, including bed sharing, maternal smoking and putting a baby to sleep on their stomach. Prevention guidelines recommend positioning babies on their backs.

More recently, researchers have focused on alcohol.

The new study findings did not surprise David P. Phillips, a professor of sociology at the University of California, San Diego, who also has reported a link between parental alcohol intake and SIDS deaths. As alcohol consumption rises -- such as on New Year's and weekends -- so do the number of SIDS deaths, he found.

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