Association of moderate alcohol use and binge drinking during pregnancy with neonatal health

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2011 Sep;35(9):1669-77. doi: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2011.01513.x. Epub 2011 May 9.


Background: Heavy drinking and smoking during pregnancy are known to have a negative impact on the unborn child. However, the impact of low-to-moderate alcohol consumption and binge drinking has been debated recently. The aim of this study was to examine the relationship of moderate prenatal drinking and binge drinking with birthweight, being small for gestational age (SGA) at birth, preterm birth, and neonatal asphyxia.

Methods: Moderate alcohol drinking, binge drinking, and several possible confounders were assessed in 1,258 pregnant women; information on neonatal health was obtained at birth.

Results: Results indicate that 30.8% of the women drank at low levels (<2 glasses/wk), 7.9% drank moderately (2 to 4 glasses/wk), and 0.9% showed higher levels of drinking (5 glasses/wk); 4.7% reported binge drinking (defined as 3 glasses/occasion). 6.4% of the children were SGA (<10th percentile of birthweight adjusted for gestational age), 4.6% were preterm (<37th week of gestation), and 13.0% showed asphyxia (arterial cord pH <7.10 and/or arterial cord lactate >6.35 mmol and/or Apgar score <7 at 5 minutes). When controlling for maternal age, citizenship, occupational status, parity, smoking, use of prescription/over-the-counter drugs, illicit drug use, and child gender moderate drinking was related to lower birthweight (p < 0.01), and moderate drinking and binge drinking were associated with neonatal asphyxia at trend level (p = 0.06 and p = 0.09). Moderate drinking and binge drinking were not related to length of gestation.

Conclusions: In contrast to recent reviews in the field, our results assume that moderate drinking and binge drinking are risk factors for neonatal health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects*
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / complications*
  • Apgar Score*
  • Birth Weight
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / adverse effects*
  • Ethanol / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs / adverse effects
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight / physiology
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Small for Gestational Age
  • Male
  • Maternal Age
  • Nonprescription Drugs / adverse effects
  • Parity
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / etiology
  • Premature Birth / etiology*
  • Risk Factors


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Illicit Drugs
  • Nonprescription Drugs
  • Ethanol