A study found that children exposed to heavy or binge drinking during the first trimester of pregnancy were more than twice as likely to fall short of national reading standards by age 8 and 9, compared with children whose mothers gave up drinking during pregnancy. Additionally, occasional binge drinking during late pregnancy more than doubled children's odds of underperforming in writing. The findings, say the authors, suggest that the fetus is vulnerable to the effect of alcohol throughout pregnancy and that the type of learning problem that can result may depend upon the dose, pattern and timing of exposure. Low to moderate prenatal alcohol exposure was not associated with academic underachievement. The findings, published in Pediatrics, are based on a study of more than 4,000 mothers in Western Australia who gave birth between 1995 and 1997 and completed questionnaires three months after birth, assessing health behavior before and during pregnancy. Their responses were linked with education records from the children’s third school year. Read the abstract.