Researchers successfully used deep learning technology and artificial intelligence (AI) to uncover a link between the alteration of children’s facial shapes and the amount of alcohol mothers consume– both before and during pregnancy.
This study was the first to identify this link among children born to mothers who consumed alcohol up to three months prior to conceiving and stopped during pregnancy.
The findings also revealed how altered face shape persisted even if mothers consumed less than 12 grams of alcohol per week– which is the equivalent of one small glass of wine.
According to Gennady Roshchupkin, the study’s lead, these findings are critical since children’s facial appearances are often an indicator of developmental and other health problems.
“I would call the face a ‘health mirror’ as it reflects the overall health of a child,” Roshchupkin said.
“A child’s exposure to alcohol before birth can have significant adverse effects on its health development, and if a mother regularly drinks a large amount, this can result in fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), which is reflected in children’s faces.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, FASD causes growth problems and brain damage. And even though the defects caused by FASD may vary from child to child, they are non-reversible.
Physical defects may include distinctive facial features– including a very thin upper lip, small eyes, and an upturned nose– slow physical growth before and after birth, hearing problems or vision difficulty, small brain size and head circumference, heart defects, kidney and bone problems, and deformities of limbs, joints, and fingers.
Additionally, brain and central nervous system problems may include delayed development, poor coordination or balance, poor memory, difficulty paying attention and processing information, poor judgment skills, hyperactivity, and rapidly changing moods.