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Keywords:

  • alcohol;
  • birth defects;
  • neural tube defects;
  • pregnancy

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Neural tube defects (NTD)s, which occur when the neural tube fails to close during early gestation, are some of the most common birth defects worldwide. Alcohol is a known teratogen and has been shown to induce NTDs in animal studies, although most human studies have failed to corroborate these results. Using data from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, associations between maternal reports of periconceptional (1 month prior through 2 months postconception) alcohol consumption and NTDs were examined.

METHODS: NTD cases and unaffected live born control infants, delivered from 1997 through 2005, were included. Interview reports of alcohol consumption (quantity, frequency, variability, and type) were obtained from 1223 case mothers and 6807 control mothers. Adjusted odds ratios (aOR)s and 95% confidence intervals were estimated using multivariable logistic regression analysis.

RESULTS: For all NTDs combined, most aORs for any alcohol consumption, one or more binge episodes, and different type(s) of alcohol consumed were near unity or modestly reduced (≥0.7<aOR≤1.1) and were not statistically significant. Findings were similar for individual NTD subtypes.

CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest no elevated association between maternal periconceptional alcohol consumption and NTDs. Underreporting of alcohol consumption, due to negative social stigma associated with alcohol consumption during pregnancy, and limited reports for mothers with early pregnancy loss of a fetus with an NTD may have affected the estimated odds ratios. Future studies should aim to increase sample sizes for less prevalent subtypes, reduce exposure misclassification, and improve ascertainment offetal deaths and elective terminations. Birth Defects Research (Part A), 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.