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Home > Alcohol consumption in pregnancy: results from the general practice setting.

Ni Shuilleabhain, A and Barry, Joseph and Kelly, Alan and O'Kelly, F and Darker, Catherine D and O'Dowd, Tom (2014) Alcohol consumption in pregnancy: results from the general practice setting. Irish Journal of Medical Science, 183, (2), pp. 231-240. doi: 10.1007/s11845-013-0996-9.

Background: There is no established safe level of alcohol consumption in pregnancy. Studies from Ireland have consistently shown lower abstention and higher binge drinking rates in pregnancy than other countries, indicating a high potential for foetal alcohol-related disorders. There has been little research on alcohol in pregnancy in primary care.

Aims: To determine the prevalence of alcohol consumption amongst pregnant women attending their GP for antenatal care, and to compare this to use in the year prior to conception.

Methods: Prospective cross-sectional study was carried out in fifteen teaching practices in the greater Dublin area. Women were recruited at their antenatal visits. Data were gathered by self-completed questionnaire in the practice, or researcher-administered telephone questionnaire. The questionnaire was based on the AUDIT, a WHO-validated data collection instrument designed for use in primary care.

Results: Two hundred and forty valid questionnaires were returned (80 % recruitment rate). Alcohol intake and binge drinking levels were much lower during pregnancy compared to the year prior to pregnancy (p < 0.001). There was a marked reduction in the prevalence of alcohol use in pregnancy compared to previous research. Over 97 % drink no more than once a week, including almost two-thirds of women who abstain totally from alcohol in pregnancy. Non-pregnant Irish women drink alcohol more frequently, and with higher rates of binge drinking, than women of other nationalities.

Conclusions: Primary care is a suitable setting to research alcohol use in pregnancy. Alcohol use in pregnancy in Ireland has decreased markedly compared to previous research from this jurisdiction.


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