Alcohol consumption during pregnancy in nonindigenous west Australian women

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2007 Feb;31(2):276-84. doi: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2006.00303.x.


Background: High alcohol intake in pregnancy has been linked to abnormal fetal development. There are limited published data in Australia on standard drinks of alcohol consumed on a typical occasion during the periconceptional period or pregnancy.

Methods: During 1995 to 1997, a 10% random sample of all nonindigenous women giving birth in Western Australia was surveyed 12 weeks after delivery (N=4,839). Women were asked questions about alcohol consumption in each of the 4 time periods: the 3 months before pregnancy and each trimester of pregnancy. Questions were framed to measure volume, frequency, and type of alcoholic beverage.

Results: 46.7% of the women had not planned their pregnancy. Most women (79.8%) reported drinking alcohol in the 3 months before pregnancy, with 58.7% drinking alcohol in at least 1 trimester of pregnancy. The proportion of women consuming 1 to 2 drinks on a typical occasion did not change much during pregnancy, but the number of occasions declined. Although the proportion of women consuming more than 2 standard drinks on a typical occasion declined after the first trimester, 19.0% of women consumed this amount in at least 1 trimester of pregnancy and 4.3% of women consumed 5 or more standard drinks on a typical occasion in at least 1 trimester of pregnancy. In the first trimester of pregnancy, 14.8% of women drank outside the current Australian guideline for alcohol consumption in pregnancy, decreasing to 10% in the second and third trimesters.

Conclusions: Women generally reduced their average alcohol consumption and the number of standard drinks on a typical occasion as their pregnancy progressed, although 10 to 14% were drinking outside current guidelines for pregnancy. It is important that all women of child-bearing age are aware, well before they consider pregnancy, of the risks of drinking alcohol during pregnancy so they can make informed decisions about their alcohol consumption in pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pregnancy Trimesters
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Western Australia / epidemiology