Alcohol use and pregnancy: improving identification

Obstet Gynecol. 1998 Jun;91(6):892-8. doi: 10.1016/s0029-7844(98)00088-x.


Objective: To test the effectiveness of a four-item prenatal-alcohol-use, self-administered screening questionnaire that asks about tolerance to alcohol, being annoyed by other's comments about drinking, attempts to cut down, and having a drink first thing in the morning ("eye-opener") (T-ACE) in an ethnically and socioeconomically diverse sample.

Methods: Two hundred fifty T-ACE-positive and 100 T-ACE-negative women completed a comprehensive assessment of their alcohol use after initiating prenatal care at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. This comprehensive assessment, which included the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test and the Short Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test as comparisons to the T-ACE, generated three criterion standards: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Third Ed., Revised (DSM-III-R), lifetime alcohol diagnoses, risk drinking (regularly having more than one fluid ounce of alcohol per drinking day before pregnancy), and current drinking.

Results: T-ACE-positive pregnant women were more likely than T-ACE-negative women to satisfy DSM-III-R criteria for lifetime alcohol diagnoses (40% versus 14%, P < .001) and risk drinking (39% versus 8%, P < .001) and to have current alcohol consumption (43% versus 13%, P < .001). In contrast, obstetric staff members documented only 33 (9%) women as using alcohol at any time, even though nearly all subjects (96%) were asked about drinking upon initiation of prenatal care.

Conclusion: The T-ACE was the most sensitive screen for lifetime alcohol diagnoses, risk drinking, and current alcohol consumption. It outperformed obstetric staff assessment of any alcohol use by pregnant women enrolled in the study.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Alcohol Drinking / prevention & control*
  • Alcoholism / diagnosis*
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Boston / epidemiology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / diagnosis
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy Complications / prevention & control*
  • Prenatal Care
  • ROC Curve
  • Risk Factors
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Surveys and Questionnaires