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Women's alcohol consumption and risk for alcohol-exposed pregnancies in Russia


Tatiana Balachova, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, 1100 N.E. 13th Street, Oklahoma City, OK 73117, USA. E-mail:


Aims  Alcohol-exposed pregnancies (AEP) are the direct cause of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). This study examines drinking patterns among pregnant and non-pregnant women of childbearing age in Russia, a country with one of the highest levels of alcohol consumption in the world.

Design  Cross-sectional survey.

Setting  Seven public women's clinics in two locations: St Petersburg (SPB) and the Nizhny Novgorod region (NNR).

Participants  A total of 648 pregnant and non-pregnant childbearing-age women.

Measurements  A face-to-face structured interview assessed alcohol consumption, pregnancy status/possibility of becoming pregnant and consumption before and after pregnancy recognition.

Findings  Eighty-nine per cent of non-pregnant women reported consuming alcohol and 65% reported binge drinking in the past 3 months; 47% in NNR and 28% in SPB reported binges at least monthly. Women who might become pregnant consumed alcohol similarly to women who were not likely to become pregnant, and 32% of women in SPB and 54% in NNR were categorized as at risk for AEP. There was a significant decline in drinking after pregnancy identification. Twenty per cent of pregnant women reported consuming alcohol and 6% in SBP (none in NNR) reported binge drinking; however, a high prevalence of binge drinking was found among women who might become pregnant or who were trying to conceive.

Conclusions  Russian women substantially reduce drinking after pregnancy recognition compared to pre-pregnancy levels. No reductions were found prior to pregnancy recognition, either when a woman might become pregnant or when she was trying to conceive. The pre-conception period presents a risk window and, therefore, a prevention opportunity.