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Alcohol Consumption by Women Before and During Pregnancy

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Objectives To determine the prevalence, patterns, and predictors of alcohol consumption prior to and during various intervals of pregnancy in the U.S. Methods Alcohol-related, pregnancy-related, and demographic data were derived from computer-assisted telephone interviews with 4,088 randomly selected control mothers from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study who delivered live born infants without birth defects during 1997–2002. Alcohol consumption rates and crude and adjusted odds ratios (OR) were calculated. Results 30.3% of all women reported drinking alcohol at some time during pregnancy, of which 8.3% reported binge drinking (4+ drinks on one occasion). Drinking rates declined considerably after the first month of pregnancy, during which 22.5% of women reported drinking, although 2.7% of women reported drinking during all trimesters of pregnancy and 7.9% reported drinking during the 3rd trimester. Pre-pregnancy binge drinking was a strong predictor of both drinking during pregnancy (adjusted OR = 8.52, 95% CI = 6.67–10.88) and binge drinking during pregnancy (adjusted OR = 36.02, 95% CI = 24.63–52.69). Other characteristics associated with both any drinking and binge drinking during pregnancy were non-Hispanic white race/ethnicity, cigarette smoking during pregnancy, and having an unintended pregnancy. Conclusions Our study revealed that drinking during pregnancy is fairly common, three times the levels reported in surveys that ask only about drinking during the month before the survey. Women who binge drink before pregnancy are at particular risk for drinking after becoming pregnant. Sexually active women of childbearing ages who drink alcohol should be advised to use reliable methods to prevent pregnancy, plan their pregnancies, and stop drinking before becoming pregnant.

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The authors thank the participating families and the many staff and scientists from all sites who contribute to the National Birth Defects Prevention Study. This research was funded in part by Cooperative Agreement number U50/CCU613232 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Correspondence to Mary K. Ethen.

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Findings were presented as posters at the following meetings

(i) The 2nd International Conference on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, March 7-10, 2007, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada; (ii) The Texas Birth Defects Research Symposium, April 19, 2006, Austin, Texas; (iii) The 9th Annual Meeting of the National Birth Defects Prevention Network, January 30-Feb 1, 2006, Arlington, Virginia; (iv) The Centers for Birth Defects Research and Prevention Partners Meeting, November 16, 2005, Washington, DC

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Ethen, M.K., Ramadhani, T.A., Scheuerle, A.E. et al. Alcohol Consumption by Women Before and During Pregnancy. Matern Child Health J 13, 274–285 (2009).

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