Parental Alcohol Use Associated with Congenital Heart Diseases in Offspring

Aislinn Antrim, Assistant Editor
Published Online: Wednesday, October 9th, 2019
Both maternal and paternal exposures to alcohol are significantly associated with risk of total congenital heart diseases (CHDs) and some specific CHD phenotypes in offspring, according to a systematic review published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.1
CHDs are the most common type of birth defect according to the CDC, affecting nearly 40,000 births per year in the US. About 25% of those have a critical CHD, meaning they require surgery or other procedures in their first year of life. At least 15% of CHDs are associated with genetic conditions.2
The review used 55 studies involving 41,747 CHD cases and identified 297,587 controls. Studies were considered eligible if they were published in English or Chinese, had a cohort or case-control design, had use of parental alcohol consumption as the exposure of interest, and had use of CHDs as the outcome of interest. All of the studies used were published between 1991 and 2019.1
Overall, mothers who had alcohol exposure experiences were found to have a significantly higher risk of CHDs in offspring compared to those without alcohol exposure (odds ratio = 1.16). The authors did note, however, that substantial heterogeneity was found.1
Paternal alcohol exposure also resulted in a significantly higher risk of CHDs (odds ratio = 1.44), though they again noted substantial heterogeneity. There was also a statistically significant association between paternal binge drinking and risk of total CHDs (odds ratio = 1.52).1
The researchers found that there is a nonlinear dose-response relationship between parental alcohol exposure and risk of CHDs. With an increase in parental alcohol consumption, the risk of total CHDs in offspring also gradually increased. Specifically, when maternal alcohol consumption exceeds 116 grams per day, the risk of total CHDs in offspring increased by 42%. When paternal alcohol consumption exceeds 375 grams per day, the risk of total CHDs in offspring increased significantly increased by 47%.1
While only a small number of studies focused on the risk of specific CHD phenotypes associated with paternal alcohol exposure, the meta-analysis did not find a statistically significant association. The results suggested that maternal alcohol consumption was not significantly associated with the risk of specific CHD phenotypes except for TOF.1
  1. Zhang S, Wang L, Yang T, Chen L, et al. (2019). Parental alcohol consumption and the risk of congenital heart diseases in offspring: An updated systematic review and meta-analysis. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Data and Statistics on Congenital Heart Defects | CDC. [online] Available at: [Accessed 7 Oct. 2019].

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