Older Not Wiser: Risk of Prenatal Alcohol Use by Maternal Age
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High levels of alcohol use among pregnant women have been associated with a spectrum of birth defects. Greater maternal age has been related to an increased risk of drinking during pregnancy. Although the context, process, and outcomes of pregnancy and alcohol use vary by maternal age, no studies have examined predictors of prenatal drinking by age. This study addresses this gap by examining potential risk factors associated with prenatal alcohol use (any versus none) by maternal age (<20, 20–25, 26–34, and 35 years or older). Descriptive and logistic regression analyses were completed on survey data from 9,004 pregnant women from the north central U.S. Descriptive statistics revealed teens in general had a higher level or greater occurrence of risk factors previously identified with prenatal drinking compared to older women, yet women of advanced maternal age (35 years or older) were most likely to drink alcohol during pregnancy. Based on the regression by age, 20–25 year old women had the greatest number of significant risk factors associated with prenatal drinking including being employed, white, unmarried, first birth, smoking prenatally, greater levels of depressed mood, and more experiences related to alcohol abuse. The number and patterns of significant predictors of drinking alcohol while pregnant by age encourage greater investigation of other social, contextual factors that might contribute to the risk of prenatal drinking. This is especially salient for women of advanced maternal age, for whom very few significant predictors emerged.