Pregnant Women May Be Using More Alcohol Than Previously Assumed
Quantities of alcohol consumed by pregnant women around the time of conception may be significantly higher than previously estimated, according to a new study from the University of Dundee…

Pregnant Women May Be Using More Alcohol Than Previously Assumed

Quantities of alcohol consumed by pregnant women around the time of conception may be significantly higher than previously estimated, according to a new study from the University of Dundee.

The research, led by Dr Andrew Symon of the University’s Mother and Infant Research Unit, used a ‘Retrospective Diary’ to record the alcohol consumption patterns of women. Researchers conducted one-to-one interviews with women during the mid-pregnancy stage and asked a series of questions about their alcohol use before they became pregnant, or before they knew they were pregnant, and during pregnancy.

The Retrospective Diary noted on which days women consumed alcohol, the number of alcoholic drinks they had on ‘alcohol consumption days’, and the type of alcohol consumed.

The researchers then worked out unit consumption using this information. When measured this way, the actual number of units estimated to have been drunk was significantly higher than when women had been asked to estimate the units they consumed.

Background for the study

Alcohol consumption among women has increased significantly and is of international concern. Heavy episodic (‘binge’) alcohol intake is commonplace and is associated with unintended pregnancy.

Pre-pregnancy alcohol use is strongly associated with continued alcohol use in pregnancy. Routine antenatal assessment of alcohol history and current alcohol intake is variable; potentially harmful peri-conceptual alcohol use may be missed if a woman reports low or no alcohol use during pregnancy.

Results of the study

The study shows a number of important results:

  • Of 510 women, 470 (92.0%) consumed alcohol before their pregnancy;
  • 187 (39.9%) consumed alcohol every week;
  • Binge alcohol use was identified in 52.2% (n=266);
  • 19.6% (n=100) reported consuming more than 14 units per week, mostly at the weekend;
  • Women who ‘binged’ peri-conceptually were 3.2 times more likely to continue this during pregnancy.

What does this mean?

These findings suggest that people are often confused about what constitutes a unit of alcohol, leading to under-reporting of consumption, and that the diary method gives a more complete picture of alcohol consumption patterns.

Significant peri-conceptual consumption levels suggest a substantial proportion of alcohol-exposed pregnancies before pregnancy recognition. Not taking a detailed alcohol history, including patterns of consumption, will result in under-detection of alcohol-exposed pregnancies. What this research shows is that asking women about the units of alcohol they consume may not be the most accurate way to gauge how much is actually consumed.


Source Website: PubMed