Alcohol-exposed pregnancy: characteristics associated with risk

Am J Prev Med. 2002 Oct;23(3):166-73. doi: 10.1016/s0749-3797(02)00495-6.


Background: Prenatal alcohol exposure is a leading cause of neurodevelopmental deficits in children. Women who are fertile, drink alcohol, and have unprotected intercourse are at risk for an alcohol-exposed pregnancy, but little is known about this population.

Methods: A survey was administered to 2672 English-speaking women aged 18 to 44 years from six settings, including an urban jail, a drug/alcohol treatment facility, a gynecology clinic, two primary care clinics, and respondents to a media solicitation. Bivariate and multivariate analyses were conducted to explore variables that were correlated with membership in the at-risk group.

Results: Most respondents (70%) reported a household income of <$20,000; 68% had a high school or equivalent education; and 62% were African American. A total of 333 women (12.5%) met the a priori definition of "at risk" for an alcohol-exposed pregnancy. Stepwise logistic regression showed that recent drug use (odds ratio [OR]=3.1; 95% confidence interval [CI]=2.1-4.4); having smoked more than 100 cigarettes (OR=1.9, 95% CI=1.3-2.7); a history of inpatient treatment for drugs or alcohol (OR=1.8, 95% CI=1.3-2.4) or inpatient mental health treatment (OR=1.6, 95% CI=1.1-2.3); having multiple sex partners (OR=1.7, 95% CI=1.2-2.2); and recent physical abuse (OR=1.5, 95% CI=1.1-2.0) were significantly correlated with being at risk.

Conclusions: It was possible to identify diverse settings with an increased prevalence of women at risk for an alcohol-exposed pregnancy. Within these settings, women at risk were characterized by an increased frequency of selected behaviors. This information may help clinicians develop and target interventions prior to conception.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / etiology
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology