Alcohol use before and during pregnancy in western Washington, 1989-2004: implications for the prevention of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2009 Mar;200(3):278.e1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2008.09.871. Epub 2008 Nov 22.


Objective: We examined trends in rates of self-reported pregnancy alcohol use among women in western Washington.

Study design: Between 1989 and 2004, we conducted 3 studies in western Washington State on problems that are associated with maternal prenatal alcohol or drug abuse (n = 12,526). To determine study eligibility, we screened hospitalized postpartum women for alcohol and drug use in the month before and during pregnancy. We examined trends in alcohol use rates and identified characteristics that were associated with any drinking and binge drinking (> or = 5 drinks on any occasion).

Results: We found a substantial decrease in pregnancy alcohol use between 1989 and 2004 (from 30-12%) across almost all demographic categories. Binge drinking in the month before pregnancy increased significantly among all race categories, except Native American.

Conclusion: Increased prepregnancy binge drinking rates may estimate alcohol use during very early gestation and warrant clinical attention because of the potential for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects*
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Marijuana Abuse / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Washington / epidemiology
  • Young Adult