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Risk Factors of Drinking Before, and During, Pregnancy

Complications due to drinking during pregnancy can range from the very serious Fetal Alcohol Syndrome to the less severe and possibly greater-occurring Fetal Alcohol// Spectrum Disorders. The timing of alcohol consumption, its frequency, the beverage size and type, all appear to be crucial elements of identifying risk. A new survey has found that nearly 80 percent of non-Indigenous West Australian women consumed alcohol during the three months before pregnancy; nearly half had not planned their pregnancies; and more than half drank alcohol during pregnancy despite recommendations of abstinence.

"There is a lack of information as it relates to the measurement of alcohol consumption during the periconceptional period of pregnancy," said Lyn Colvin, a researcher at the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research at The University of Western Australia and corresponding author for the study.

Colleen O'Leary, a research associate at the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, concurs. "The most vulnerable period for the fetus is during the first trimester," she said, "although there is potential risk to the baby from drinking throughout pregnancy. It is important to know how much alcohol women are drinking both during the periconceptional period and throughout pregnancy, as well as more about the relationship between alcohol consumption during the periconceptional period and unplanned pregnancy. This information is important for women and men, policy makers and researchers."

Researchers analyzed data from a survey and found that nearly 80 percent reported drinking alcohol in the three months before becoming pregnant.

"Of those 3,860 women consuming alcohol in the three months before pregnancy," said Colvin, "the majority (55.6%) drank more than one type of alcoholic beverage. Once pregnant, the majority (65.5%) drank only one type of alcoholic beverage."

Nearly half of the women (46.7%) surveyed had no
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