In a survey of non-indigenous West Australian women, 79.8 percent reported drinking alcohol in the three months before becoming pregnant. Nearly half of the women (46.7%) surveyed reported that their pregnancy was unplanned.
More than half (58.7%) drank alcohol during pregnancy despite recommendations of abstinence.
Complications due to drinking during pregnancy can range from the very serious Fetal Alcohol Syndrome to the less severe and possibly greater-occurring Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. The timing of alcohol consumption, its frequency, the beverage size and type, all appear to be crucial elements of identifying risk. A new survey has found that nearly 80 percent of non-Indigenous West Australian women consumed alcohol during the three months before pregnancy; nearly half had not planned their pregnancies; and more than half drank alcohol during pregnancy despite recommendations of abstinence.
Results are published in the February issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
“There is a lack of information as it relates to the measurement of alcohol consumption during the periconceptional period of pregnancy,” said Lyn Colvin, a researcher at the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research at The University of Western Australia and corresponding author for the study. “In particular, information on specific alcoholic beverage consumed, frequency, timing during pregnancy, and volume in standard drinks are rare.”
Colleen O’Leary, a research associate at the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, concurs. “The most vulnerable period for the fetus is during the first trimester,” she said, “although there is potential risk to the baby from drinking throughout pregnancy. It is important to know how much alcohol women are drinking both during the periconceptional period and throughout pregnancy, as well as more about the relationship between alcohol consumption during the periconceptional period and unplanned pregnancy. This information is important for women and men, policy makers and researchers.”