Detecting patterns of maternal drinking that place fetuses at risk for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) is critical to diagnosis, treatment, and prevention but is challenging because information on antenatal drinking collected during pregnancy is often insufficient or lacking. Although retrospective assessments have been considered less favored by many researchers due to presumed poor reliability, this perception may be inaccurate because of reduced maternal denial and/or distortion. The present study hypothesized that fetal alcohol exposure, as assessed retrospectively during child adolescence, would be related significantly to prior measures of maternal drinking and would predict alcohol-related behavioral problems in teens better than antenatal measures of maternal alcohol consumption. Drinking was assessed during pregnancy, and retrospectively about the same pregnancy, at a 14-year follow-up in 288 African-American women using well-validated semistructured interviews. Regression analysis examined the predictive validity of both drinking assessments on pregnancy outcomes and on teacher-reported teen behavior outcomes. Retrospective maternal self-reported drinking assessed 14 years postpartum was significantly higher than antenatal reports of consumption. Retrospective report identified 10.8 times more women as risk drinkers (≥ one drink per day) than the antenatal report. Antenatal and retrospective reports were moderately correlated and both were correlated with the Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test. Self-reported alcohol consumption during pregnancy based on retrospective report identified significantly more teens exposed prenatally to at-risk alcohol levels than antenatal, in-pregnancy reports. Retrospective report predicted more teen behavior problems (e.g., attention problems and externalizing behaviors) than the antenatal report. Antenatal report predicted younger gestational age at birth and retrospective report predicted smaller birth size; neither predicted teen IQ. These results suggest that if only antenatal, in-pregnancy maternal report is used, then a substantial proportion of children exposed prenatally to risk levels of alcohol might be misclassified. The validity of retrospective assessment of prior drinking during pregnancy as a more effective indicator of prenatal exposure was established by predicting more behavioral problems in teens than antenatal report. Retrospective report can provide valid information about drinking during a prior pregnancy and may facilitate diagnosis and subsequent interventions by educators, social service personnel, and health-care providers, thereby reducing the life-long impact of FASDs.
Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.