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Maternal factors associated with heavy periconceptional alcohol intake and drinking following pregnancy recognition: A post-partum survey of New Zealand women


  • Simonette R. Mallard MSc, Teaching Fellow and Research Assistant, Jennie L. Connor MB, ChB, PhD, Professor and Head, Lisa A. Houghton PhD, Senior Lecturer.

Correspondence to Ms Simonette R. Mallard, Department of Human Nutrition, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand. Tel: (+64) 3479 7959; Fax: (+64) 3479 7958; E-mail:


Introduction and Aims

Alcohol consumption during pregnancy places the foetus at risk of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. Little is known about the current prevalence and patterns of alcohol consumption before and following pregnancy recognition in New Zealand.

Design and Methods

A retrospective survey of 723 post-partum women resident in maternity wards located across New Zealand was conducted using a self-administered questionnaire. Maternal sociodemographic and obstetric characteristics and alcohol intake before and after pregnancy recognition were assessed.


Of the 968 women invited to participate, 78% agreed. Eighty-two percent of women reported consuming alcohol prior to pregnancy and 20% reported typically consuming >4 New Zealand standard drinks per occasion. Overall, 34% of women reported drinking at some time during pregnancy. Twelve percent of pregnancies were at high risk of heavy alcohol exposure in early gestation. In fully adjusted analysis, pregnancies most at risk were those of indigenous Māori women, Pacific women, smokers and drug users. Almost one-quarter (24%) of drinkers continued to drink following pregnancy recognition, and in fully adjusted analysis, continuing to drink was positively associated with frequency of alcohol consumption before pregnancy (P< 0.001 for linear trend).

Discussion and Conclusions

To reduce the burden of alcohol-related harm to the foetus, these findings suggest that New Zealand alcohol policy should be focused not only on promoting total abstinence when planning a pregnancy and when pregnant, but also on reducing ‘binge drinking’ culture and the frequent consumption of lower levels of alcohol.[Mallard SR, Connor JL, Houghton LA. Maternal factors associated with heavy periconceptional alcohol intake and drinking following pregnancy recognition:A post-partum survey of New Zealand women.Drug Alcohol Rev2013;32:389–397]