• Pregnancy;
  • Alcohol Use

Background:  To date, no studies have used population-level data to investigate whether maternal location of residence (metropolitan vs. regional/remote populations) is associated with alcohol use in pregnancy. This information has important implications for appropriate service provision.

Methods:  Information on all live births in New South Wales Australia was linked to records of alcohol-related admissions for mothers of these births over a 6-year period (2000 to 2006). Cases were women who had at least 1 alcohol-related hospital admission during pregnancy or at birth. Controls were women who had at least 1 live birth over that same time period but no alcohol-related hospital admissions during that time. Admissions were considered to be alcohol-related based on the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, 10th Revision, Australian Modification (ICD-10-AM) code. Demographic, obstetric, and neonatal variables were compared.

Results:  A total of 417,464 singleton birth records were analyzed, 488 of which were coded positive for at least 1 alcohol-related ICD-10-AM diagnosis. Characteristics associated with alcohol-related admissions in pregnancy were residence in a remote/very remote area, being Australian-born, having had a previous pregnancy, smoking in the current pregnancy, and presenting late to antenatal care. Alcohol-exposed pregnancies were associated with a range of poor obstetric and neonatal outcomes, with no geographic differences noted. However, women in regional/remote areas were less likely to attend specialist obstetric hospitals.

Conclusions:  This study shows the need for standardized screening programs for alcohol use in pregnancy and where problematic use is detected, for clear clinical guidelines on management and referral.