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Alcohol consumption in pregnancy: results from the general practice setting



There is no established safe level of alcohol consumption in pregnancy. Studies from Ireland have consistently shown lower abstention and higher binge drinking rates in pregnancy than other countries, indicating a high potential for foetal alcohol-related disorders. There has been little research on alcohol in pregnancy in primary care.


To determine the prevalence of alcohol consumption amongst pregnant women attending their GP for antenatal care, and to compare this to use in the year prior to conception.


Prospective cross-sectional study was carried out in fifteen teaching practices in the greater Dublin area. Women were recruited at their antenatal visits. Data were gathered by self-completed questionnaire in the practice, or researcher-administered telephone questionnaire. The questionnaire was based on the AUDIT, a WHO-validated data collection instrument designed for use in primary care.


Two hundred and forty valid questionnaires were returned (80 % recruitment rate). Alcohol intake and binge drinking levels were much lower during pregnancy compared to the year prior to pregnancy (p < 0.001). There was a marked reduction in the prevalence of alcohol use in pregnancy compared to previous research. Over 97 % drink no more than once a week, including almost two-thirds of women who abstain totally from alcohol in pregnancy. Non-pregnant Irish women drink alcohol more frequently, and with higher rates of binge drinking, than women of other nationalities.


Primary care is a suitable setting to research alcohol use in pregnancy. Alcohol use in pregnancy in Ireland has decreased markedly compared to previous research from this jurisdiction.

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Many thanks to the participating GP practices and their patients. Research funded by the Health Service Executive.

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Ethical approval from Irish College of General Practitioners.

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Correspondence to A. Ní Shúilleabháin.

Appendix: Research Questionnaire

Appendix: Research Questionnaire

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Ní Shúilleabháin, A., Barry, J., Kelly, A. et al. Alcohol consumption in pregnancy: results from the general practice setting. Ir J Med Sci 183, 231–240 (2014).

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  • Alcohol drinking
  • Family practice
  • General practice
  • Pregnancy
  • Prevalence
  • Primary care