Alcohol Use in Pregnant and Nonpregnant Russian Women


  • The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)/NIH provided support for travel and interviewer training in St. Petersburg; the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) provided support for data collection in Russia.

Reprint requests: Arlinda F. Kristjanson, PhD, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, University of North Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences, PO Box 9037, Grand Forks, ND 58202-9037; Fax: 701-777-6478; E-mail:


Background: Alcohol consumption in Russia is reportedly high for both men and women; most studies of Russian drinking have used questionnaires not designed specifically to measure alcohol consumption or to interview women. This study was designed specifically to measure drinking patterns among pregnant and nonpregnant Russian women.

Methods: Eight hundred ninety-nine women of child-bearing age in St. Petersburg, Russia, were interviewed in employment centers, educational centers, and at obstetric and gynecologic (OB/GYN) clinics and hospitals. Measurement of drinking used several types of drinking questions and time frames.

Results: Nearly all nonpregnant Russian women (95.9%) reported consuming alcohol in the last 12 months. Among nonpregnant women drinkers, 7.6% reported drinking heavily (29.58 mL or more ethanol/d), and 18.4% reported drinking ≥5 on at least 1 occasion. Contrary to expectations of Russian obstetricians, pregnant Russian women readily answered detailed questions about their drinking behavior during pregnancy. Nearly all pregnant women drank in the year before they became pregnant; of these, 60.0% reported drinking when they knew they were pregnant, and 34.9% drank in the past 30 days. Among pregnant women who drank in the past 30 days, 7.4% reporting having ≥5 drinks on at least 1 occasion. Nevertheless, more than 90% of pregnant and nonpregnant Russian women believed that alcohol has a detrimental effect on pregnancy outcomes.

Conclusions: Pregnant and nonpregnant Russian women were willing to answer detailed questions about their drinking behavior. Although most pregnant women studied reduced their drinking during pregnancy, one-third of the pregnant women did not stop drinking. It is important to find out what enabled two-thirds of the pregnant women to stop drinking before or during their pregnancy.