Page last updated: March 27, 2017
Consumption of alcohol during pregnancy – a multinational European study

Although single-country studies indicate alcohol consumption among some pregnant women in Europe, it is difficult to interpret European differences as few multinational studies exist.

A study set out to estimate the proportion of women consuming alcohol during pregnancy in Europe, and analysed whether between country variations could be explained by sociodemography and smoking.

An anonymous online questionnaire was accessible for pregnant women and new mothers in 11 European countries for two months between October 2011 and February 2012. The questionnaire covered alcohol consumption, sociodemographic factors, and smoking habits during pregnancy. Descriptive analyses and logistic regression models were conducted.

The study population consisted of 7,905 women, 53.1% pregnant and 46.9% new mothers. On average, 15.8% reported alcohol consumption during pregnancy. The highest proportion of alcohol consumption during pregnancy was found in the UK (28.5%), Russia (26.5%), and Switzerland (20.9%) and the lowest in Norway (4.1%), Sweden (7.2%), and Poland (9.7%). When reporting alcohol consumption during pregnancy, 39% consumed at least one unit per month.

In Italy, Switzerland, and the UK, over half consumed at least one alcohol unit per month. Higher education and smoking before pregnancy were predictors of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Almost 16% of women resident in Europe consumed alcohol during pregnancy with large cross-country variations. Education and smoking prior to pregnancy could not fully explain the differences between the European countries. A united European strategy to prevent alcohol consumption during pregnancy is needed to focus on countries with the highest consumption, the researchers suggest.

Source: Consumption of alcohol during pregnancy – a multinational European study. Mardby AC; Lupattelli A; Hensing G; Nordeng H. Women and Birth, published early online 19 January 2017.

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