A new study has found that drinking even small amounts of alcohol while pregnant can change the way a baby’s face develops.

The changes are subtle, such as to the eyes, nose and lips, and are not necessarily harmful.

The research was conducted by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute based in Victoria, Australia, and studied 1570 women during their pregnancies and births. Researchers then took photos of 415 of the babies’ faces from different angles, then converted them into 3D photographs that showed 70,000 points of their faces.

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They then compared different characteristics, and found that some traits were common in babies whose mothers had drunk alcohol compared to those whose mother’s hadn’t. These traits included a shorter and upturned nose, and effects on the chin, eyes, midface, and forehead.

Jane Halliday of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute told New Scientist that while researchers noticed these changes, there was no indication that they were detrimental to the health of the baby. 

“We don’t know if the small changes in the children’s facial shape are connected in any way to differences in their development,” Halliday says. “We plan to look at this as the children grow.”

Other studies are exploring how some babies are resistant to the effects of women drinking through pregnancy while others develop fetal alcohol syndrome.

There have also been recent claims that telling women to drink while pregnant is actually just ‘sexist’.

While this is the case, the official recommendation from health organisations still remains to avoid alcohol if you are pregnant.

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