A new study by a team of University of Rochester psychologists and other researchers in the Collaborative Initiative on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (CIFASD) finds that partners of mothers-to-be can directly influence a pregnant woman’s likelihood of drinking alcohol and feeling depressed, which affects their babies’ development.
The study, which appeared in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, highlights the importance of engaging partners in intervention and prevention efforts to help pregnant women avoid drinking alcohol. A baby’s prenatal alcohol exposure carries the risk of potential lifelong problems, including premature birth, delayed infant development, and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD).
“The findings emphasize how many factors influence alcohol use during pregnancy,” says lead author Carson Kautz-Turnbull, a third-year graduate student in the Rochester Department of Psychology whose interests lie in FASD intervention work and reaching underserved populations, including racial minorities, rural populations, and low-income groups. “The more we learn about these factors, the more we can reduce stigma around drinking during pregnancy and help in a way that’s empowering and meaningful,” Kautz-Turnbull says.
The team followed 246 pregnant women at two sites in western Ukraine over time as part of CIFASD, an international consortium of researchers that researchers at the University’s Mt. Hope Family Center are members of, which is funded by the NIH’s National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
The team found that higher use of alcohol and tobacco by partners as well as pregnant women’s lower relationship satisfaction increased the likelihood of their babies’ prenatal alcohol exposure. Conversely, women who felt supported by their partners reported lower rates of depressive symptoms and were less likely to drink during pregnancy.
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