Burd publishes report on prenatal alcohol exposure

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News Article

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School of Medicine & Health Sciences


GRAND FORKS, N.D.—Currently, about 50 percent of infants in the United States and in North Dakota have some alcohol exposure in early pregnancy. Most of these infants’ mothers then quit drinking. However, about 6 to 10 percent of pregnant women drink throughout their pregnancy.

“Many people thinking about this issue would recognize the link between maternal drug use and developmental problems, which is a major public health issue in the United States and across the world,” said Larry Burd, PhD, a professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences, and director of the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Center at the UND SMHS. The center provides prevention, diagnostic, and treatment services for people of all ages who have concerns related to prenatal alcohol exposure.

“However, the much larger problem of prenatal alcohol exposure is a far more serious and much larger public health issue across the world and in North Dakota that is often overlooked,” Burd said. “This level of prenatal exposure is linked to increasing rates of complications during pregnancy and in the newborn.”

The 2015 North Dakota Legislative Assembly created the North Dakota Task Force on Substance Exposed Newborns to study the growing problem and to produce a report for the 65th Legislative Assembly, convening in 2017. Burd was the author of the report submitted to the task force, A Report to the North Dakota Task Force on Substance Exposed Newborns.

“In some cases these children will have a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder,” Burd said. “These disorders typically are lifelong disorders and extremely costly. The tragedy here is that these are preventable conditions."