Study finds more than 1 in 10 pregnant women drink alcohol

January 14, 2003

Fifteen percent of women taking part in a study in southeastern Michigan drank alcohol during their pregnancies, although most of the women report drinking only one drink or less each week, new research finds.

Women who had one or more drinks per week or reported binge drinking of five or more drinks on one occasion were more likely to smoke and more likely to be in the earlier stages of their pregnancy, according to the study.

The results suggest that "despite increasing public awareness of the harmful effects of drinking during pregnancy, many women consume alcohol in various degrees while pregnant," say Heather A. Flynn, Ph.D., of the University of Michigan Medical School and colleagues.

The study is published in the January 2003 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

The study asked 1,131 pregnant women, ages 18-46, in obstetrics clinic waiting rooms about their alcohol use. Questions about alcohol use were included between other survey questions about overall health, exercise and tobacco use. The women also answered questions about their drinking habits in the year prior to becoming pregnant.

The researchers divided up the women who reported any alcohol use during pregnancy into low and high-risk groups. Eighty-six percent of the women fell into the low-risk group, consuming one drink or less per week. Only 7 percent of the women reported one or more binge drinking episodes during their pregnancy.

There were no significant differences in drinking behavior associated with the women's martial status, race or education. Women who were low-risk drinkers were significantly older than women who did not drink at all during pregnancy, but there was no significant age difference between low and high-risk drinkers.

Among the women who reported any drinking, 54.5 percent of them said their health care provider had talked with them about drinking while pregnant. Flynn and colleagues think that screenings such as the one conducted in their study may improve detection of drinking during pregnancy and prompt timely interventions by obstetricians.

"In two previous studies, even brief advice has been found to significantly reduce high-risk drinking behavior in childbearing age women in primary care," Flynn says.
The study was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Health Behavior News Service: (202) 387-2829 or
Interviews: Contact Kara Gavin, University of Michigan Health System Public Relations, at (734) 764-2220 or
Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research: Contact Mary Newcomb at (317) 278-4765 or, or visit

Center for Advancing Health

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