Predictors of alcohol use during pregnancy in Australian women

Tsang, T.W., Kingsland, M., Doherty, E., Anderson, A.E., Tully, B., Crooks, K., Symonds, I., Tremain, D., Dunlop, A.J., Wiggers, J. and Elliott, E.J. (2021), Predictors of alcohol use during pregnancy in Australian women. Drug Alcohol Rev..



This paper aimed to document alcohol use during pregnancy and determine predictors of ongoing use, including knowledge and agreement with national alcohol guideline recommendations.


Pregnant women (n = 1179) attending public antenatal services in a Local Health District in NSW, Australia, were surveyed about their alcohol use before pregnancy and after pregnancy recognition, and awareness of, and agreement with, national alcohol guidelines and health-related statements. Respondent characteristics, drinking behaviour and predictors of ongoing drinking during pregnancy were assessed.


Most women consumed alcohol before pregnancy (79.3%) but the majority (82.0%) stopped following pregnancy recognition. Half the ongoing drinkers only drank on special occasions. Most (63.6%) women were aware of the national guidelines: 78.1% knew the recommendation that consuming no alcohol in pregnancy is safest, 4.6% thought some alcohol was safe and 17.3% were unsure. Predictors [OR (95%CI)] of ongoing drinking were older age [1.11 (1.07, 1.15)]; medium [2.42 (1.46, 4.00)] or high-risk drinking pre-pregnancy [3.93 (2.35, 6.56)]; and agreement that: avoiding alcohol in pregnancy is safest [0.05 (0.006, 0.47)]; avoiding alcohol is important for baby’s health [0.14 (0.06, 0.31)] and pregnancy is a good time to change alcohol use for mother’s health [0.29 (0.13, 0.63)].

Discussion and Conclusions

Results emphasise the importance of asking about special occasion drinking, the link between pre-pregnancy drinking and ongoing drinking during pregnancy, and the need to understand why women disagree with the national guideline. To ensure guidelines have their intended benefit, interventions to promote behaviour change relating to alcohol consumption during pregnancy are warranted.

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