Binge drinking in the preconception period and the risk of unintended pregnancy: implications for women and their children

Pediatrics. 2003 May;111(5 Pt 2):1136-41.


Objective: To assess the relationship between unintended pregnancy resulting in a live birth and binge drinking (having 5 or more alcoholic beverages on 1 occasion) in the 3 months before pregnancy (the preconception period) and to characterize women who are of childbearing age and binge drink.

Methods: A case-control study was conducted of women with pregnancies that resulted in a live birth, comparing those with unintended pregnancies with those with intended pregnancies. Data analyzed were from the 15 states that participated in the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System from 1996-1999.

Results: Of 72 907 respondents, 45% of pregnancies were unintended. Compared with women with intended pregnancy, women with unintended pregnancy were more likely to be young and black and to report preconception binge drinking (16.3% vs 11.9%; odds ratio [OR]: 1.43; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.13-1.54). After adjusting for potential confounders, preconception binge drinking was associated with unintended pregnancy for white women (adjusted OR: 1.63; 95% CI: 1.47-1.80) but not for black women (adjusted OR: 0.96, 95% CI: 0.77-1.20). Overall, 14% of women reported preconception binge drinking. Women who binge drank in the preconception period were more likely to be white and unmarried; to smoke and be exposed to violence in the preconception period; and to consume alcohol, binge drink, and smoke during pregnancy.

Conclusions: Binge drinking in the preconception period was associated with unintended pregnancies resulting in a live birth among white women but not among black women. Preconception binge drinkers were more likely to engage in other risky behaviors, including drinking during pregnancy. Comprehensive interventions to reduce binge drinking may reduce unintended pregnancies, as well as other adverse maternal and pediatric health outcomes.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Alcoholic Intoxication* / epidemiology
  • Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Marital Status
  • Population Surveillance
  • Pregnancy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pregnancy, Unwanted / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk
  • United States / epidemiology