Each week a woman consumes alcohol during the first five to 10 weeks of pregnancy is associated with an incremental 8% increase in risk of miscarriage, according to a study by Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) researchers.
The findings, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, examine the timing, amount and type of alcohol use during pregnancy and how these factors relate to miscarriage risk before 20 weeks’ gestation.
Impact of alcohol use rises through the ninth week of pregnancy, and risk accrues regardless of whether a woman reported having fewer than one drink or more than four drinks each week. Risk is also independent of the type of alcohol consumed and whether the woman had episodes of binge drinking.
Though most women change their alcohol use after a positive pregnancy test, consuming alcohol before recognizing a pregnancy is common among both those with a planned or unintended pregnancy. Half of the 5,353 women included in the analysis reported alcohol use around conception and during the first weeks of pregnancy.
The median gestational age for stopping alcohol use was 29 days. Although 41% of women who changed their use did so within three days of a positive pregnancy test, those who stopped consumption near their missed period had a 37% greater risk of miscarriage compared to women who did not use alcohol.
“Abstaining from alcohol around conception or during pregnancy has long been advised for many reasons, including preventing fetal alcohol syndrome. Nonetheless, modest levels of consumption are often seen as likely to be safe,” said Katherine Hartmann, MD, Ph.D., vice president for Research Integration at VUMC and principal investigator for the Right from the Start cohort, from which participants were enrolled in the study.
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