Page last updated: October 24, 2014

Maternal health behaviours in Ireland

‘Growing Up in Ireland - Maternal Health Behaviours And Child Growth In Infancy’ was published in October 2014 and provides an insight into the drinking habits of pregnant women in Ireland. The Growing Up in Ireland project is following the development of two cohorts of children first visited in 2007/8. The first wave of the project collected data on 11,134 children aged nine months and their parents (the Infant Cohort) and 8,568 children aged nine years (the Child Cohort), their parents, teachers and carers. In this report, the data from the first wave of the Infant Cohort are used to provide analyses of maternal health behaviours and patterns of child growth in infancy. Abstinence from drinking alcohol during pregnancy was less likely among older women and those with higher levels of education, higher social class and income. Women aged 35 to 39 were 33% more likely to drink during pregnancy than women aged under 25. Women having their second or third child were over 25% more likely. However, older age, higher income, class and education also tended to be associated with more moderate drinking compared to younger women and those with lower levels of income and education. Compared to UK studies, women were significantly less likely to report drinking during pregnancy, but if they did consume, they were more likely to drink more heavily than their UK counterparts. The average number of units of alcohol consumed during pregnancy was highest in the first trimester but consumption fell after confirmation of the pregnancy. Younger and less educated women tended to drink more in early pregnancy but their consumption fell quickly in the second or third trimesters, whereas consumption among more advantaged women often increased over the pregnancy. Having had children previously was also associated with a higher prevalence of drinking, suggesting that the perception of risk falls with experience. The study showed if a woman’s partner continued to smoke during the pregnancy, the mother was 70% less likely to quit.

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