Pregnancy and alcohol use

Dr Fergus McCarthy, Professor Lucilla Poston, Mr Paul Seed

Tommy's researchers looked at more than 17,000 women and found that alcohol consumption is prevalent during pregnancy.

Tommy's researchers looked at how common alcohol use is during pregnancy, and what factors make it more likely for people to drink while pregnant. To do this, they studied data from 17,244 women taken from different studies. These included two Irish studies (Growing up in Ireland and Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System Ireland (PRAMS Ireland)), and the international SCOPE cohort study.

Alcohol consumption during pregnancy was 20–80% in Ireland and 40–80% in Australia, New Zealand and the UK. The amount of alcohol consumed varied widely among those who did drink. 15–70% of women consumed more than 1–2 units per week in the first 3 months of pregnancy. Smoking was the most consistent factor that suggested alcohol use: smokers were 17–50% more likely to drink during pregnancy across the three studies.

This study shows that alcohol use during pregnancy is common. We need to do more research on biological markers and standards for measuring alcohol use in pregnancy to improve the validity of these estimates.

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This study took place in a Tommy's centre and was funded by Tommy's and the National Institute for Health Research

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