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Keywords:

  • Alcohol;
  • AUDIT ;
  • Pregnancy;
  • CDT ;
  • PEth;
  • Women

Background

Little is known about the effects of low levels of maternal alcohol intake on the neuropsychological development of the child. This study is part of an ongoing investigation on maternal drinking and presents data on demographic variables, maternal alcohol use, and birth outcomes from that study.

Methods

The sample comprised 2,264 women from a Swedish antenatal clinic. Retrospective self-report data were collected on alcohol consumption before and during pregnancy, using the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), and on nicotine use. Specific alcohol biomarkers for excessive drinking, carbohydrate-deficient transferrin (CDT) in serum and phosphatidylethanol (PEth) in whole blood, were determined during mid-pregnancy in a subsample of the women. Data on labor and early characteristics of the child were also assessed.

Results

Before pregnancy, 89% of the women regularly consumed alcohol and 49% reported occasional or frequent binge drinking. Nicotine was used by 15% before and by 5% during pregnancy. During pregnancy, 12% continued using alcohol and 5% also admitted binge drinking. However, all alcohol biomarker values were below the reporting limits (CDT ≤ 1.7% disialotransferrin; total PEth < 0.1 μmol/L). Self-reported drinking during pregnancy was associated with a higher AUDIT score before pregnancy, nicotine use at the time of the first prenatal visit, older age, and previous legal abortions.

Conclusions

The AUDIT questionnaire and 2 specific alcohol biomarkers were used in routine maternity care to collect information about drinking during pregnancy and thereby to identify children at risk for alcohol-related complications. While the AUDIT results suggested that a significant number of women continued using alcohol during pregnancy, implying a risk for fetal disorders, the biomarkers showed negative test values thus indicating only modest drinking levels.