Page last updated: May 2017
Early pregnancy awareness may be more effective than promoting alcohol abstinence

A study conducted by the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee evaluated whether women planning a pregnancy are less likely to consume alcohol beverages in early pregnancy than those with unintended pregnancies, finding that the majority of women in both categories either stopped or decreased consumption after having a positive pregnancy test.

5,036 women from a prospective, community-based pregnancy cohort, Right From the Start (2000-2012), took part in the study. Information on maternal demographic, reproductive, and behavioural data, including alcohol consumption characteristics were collected in telephone interviews at enrolment and later in the first trimester.

55% of the participants reported using alcohol in the first trimester with 6% continuing use at the firsttrimester interview. Pregnancy was planned by 70% of participants. Alcohol use occurred in 55% and 56% of intended and unintended pregnancies, respectively. Adjusting for confounders, women with intended pregnancies were 31% less likely to consume any alcohol in early pregnancy (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 0.69, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.60-0.81) or binge drink (adjusted OR 0.68, 95% CI 0.54-0.86).

The majority of women, irrespective of intention, stopped or decreased drinking after pregnancy recognition. Senior study author Katherine Hartmann commented that women are “already self-regulating their alcohol use…[and] our findings suggested that promoting early pregnancy awareness could prove to be more effective than promoting abstinence from alcohol among all who could conceive.”

Source: Pregnancy intention and maternal alcohol consumption. Pryor J; Patrick SW; Sundermann AC; Wu P; Hartmann KE. Obstetrics and Gynecology, Published early online 6 March 2017.

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