The incidence of prenatal alcohol exposure in Montevideo Uruguay as determined by meconium analysis

Ther Drug Monit. 2010 Jun;32(3):311-7. doi: 10.1097/FTD.0b013e3181dda52a.


Prenatal alcohol exposure can lead to a wide range of deficits known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Epidemiologic studies regarding alcohol consumption in pregnancy have concentrated on North America, but recent reports have suggested that consumption is significant in many parts of the world. In Uruguay, alcohol consumption has changed into more risky and dangerous patterns and thus has a theoretical risk of having a high rate of prenatal alcohol exposure. This study characterizes the incidence of prenatal alcohol exposure in Montevideo, Uruguay, using a novel biomarker, fatty acid ethyl esters, in meconium as well as a survey to mothers. Nine hundred five meconium samples were collected from Hospital Pereira Rossell and Hospital de Clínicas in Montevideo, Uruguay. A maternal questionnaire was also completed. Meconium was analyzed for fatty acid ethyl esters using liquid-liquid and solid phase extraction with gas chromatography-flame ionization detection. Meconium was also analyzed for other drugs of abuse using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Forty-four percent of meconium samples were above the positive cutoff for fatty acid ethyl esters and represent those newborns with risky prenatal exposure during the final two trimesters of pregnancy. Infants with prenatal alcohol exposure were more likely to have prenatal exposure to tobacco (odds ratio, 1.56; 95% confidence interval, 1.11-2.20) or any illicit drug (odds ratio, 2.29; 95% confidence interval, 0.98-5.31). Ethyl linoleate was a significant predictor of infant birth weight along with prenatal tobacco exposure, maternal body mass index, and infant sex. This study highlights a 44% incidence of prenatal alcohol exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects*
  • Ethanol / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Meconium / chemistry*
  • Meconium / metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • Uruguay / epidemiology


  • Ethanol