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ENGLEMED HEALTH NEWS - 21/1/09

Premature birth risk from binge drinking

Wednesday January 21st, 2009

New findings, published today, show how a baby can suffer from a mother's binge drinking during pregnancy.

The relationship between alcohol and foetal growth and premature birth was investigated by researchers from Oxford University, UK, and the University of Western Australia in Perth.

They gathered information from 4,719 women who gave birth in Western Australia between 1995 and 1997. On average, alcohol intake fell during pregnancy. A "low level" of alcohol was not linked to adverse outcomes.

However, women who binged or drank heavily tended to have a 2.3-fold increased risk of premature birth, even when the woman stopped drinking before the second trimester. This could be due to a metabolic or inflammatory response to the cessation of alcohol consumption, suggest the authors in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

The quarter of women who drank in late pregnancy tended to be older, have a higher income, and were more likely to use illicit drugs.

There was also a link between alcohol consumption and smoking - women who smoked during pregnancy were less likely to abstain from alcohol. Once maternal smoking was accounted for, alcohol exposure did not increase the risk of babies being born small for their gestational age.

Researcher Dr Colleen O'Leary said: "Our research shows pregnant women who drink more than one to two standard drinks (10gm of alcohol) per occasion and more than six standard drinks per week increase their risk of having a premature baby.

"The risk of preterm birth is highest for pregnant women who drink heavily or at binge levels, meaning drinking more than seven standard drinks per week, or more than five drinks on any one occasion."

O'Leary, C. et al. Impact of maternal alcohol consumption on fetal growth and preterm birth. BJOG, Vol. 116, 2009, pp. 390-400.

Tags: Australia | Childbirth and Pregnancy | Drug and Alcohol Abuse | Europe | Nursing & Midwifery | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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