Researchers have found a newborn’s first stool can reveal if the child will have intelligence and reasoning problems in later life. It was also found that chemical levels in the stool could reveal problems they could face as teenagers.
In particular, high levels of fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEE) found in the meconium (a newborn’s first stool) from a mother’s alcohol use during pregnancy can alert doctors that a child is at risk for problems with intelligence and reasoning.
Left untreated, such problems persist into the teen years, the research team from the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences found.
‘We wanted to see if there was a connection between FAEE level and their cognitive development during childhood and adolescence—and there was,’ said Meeyoung O. Min, PhD, research assistant professor at the Mandel School and the study’s lead researcher.
‘FAEE can serve as a marker for fetal alcohol exposure and developmental issues ahead.’
Detecting prenatal exposure to alcohol at birth could lead to early interventions that help reduce the effects later, Min said.
The research is part of the ongoing Project Newborn study, a longitudinal research project funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse that has followed the physical, social and cognitive developments of babies born to mothers who used cocaine, alcohol and other drugs during their pregnancies.
‘Although we already knew a mother’s alcohol use during her pregnancy may cause cognitive deficits, what is significant is that the early marker, not previously available, predicted this, establishing the predictive validity of FAEEs for determining alcohol exposure in utero’ Min said.
Her team’s findings were published in the April 2015 issue of the Journal of Pediatrics (Volume 166, 1042-1047), ‘Association of Fatty Acid Ethyl Easters in Meconium and Cognitive Development during Childhood and Adolescence.’