Peri-conceptual and mid-pregnancy drinking: a cross-sectional assessment in two Scottish health board areas using a 7-day Retrospective Diary

Andrew Symon (Lead / Corresponding author), Jean Rankin, Hazel Sinclair, Geraldine Butcher, Kylie Barclay, Rhona Gordon, Michelle MacDonald, Lesley Smith

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    AIMS: To evaluate the use of a 7-day Retrospective Diary to assess peri-conceptual and mid-pregnancy alcohol consumption.

    BACKGROUND: Alcohol consumption among women has increased significantly and is of international concern. Heavy episodic ('binge') drinking is commonplace and is associated with unintended pregnancy. Pre-pregnancy drinking is strongly associated with continued drinking in pregnancy. Routine antenatal assessment of alcohol history and current drinking is variable; potentially harmful peri-conceptual drinking may be missed if a woman reports low or no drinking during pregnancy.

    DESIGN: Cross-sectional study (n=510) in two Scottish health board areas.

    METHODS: Face-to-face Retrospective Diary administration from February to June 2015 assessing alcohol consumption in peri-conceptual and mid-pregnancy periods. Women were recruited at the mid-pregnancy ultrasound clinic.

    RESULTS: Of 510 women, 470 (92.0%) drank alcohol before their pregnancy; 187 (39.9%) drank every week. Retrospective assessment of peri-conceptual consumption identified heavy episodic drinking (more than six units on one occasion) in 52.2% (n=266); 19.6% (n=100) reported drinking more than 14 units per week, mostly at the weekend; 'mixing' of drinks was associated with significantly higher consumption. While consumption tailed off following pregnancy recognition, 5.5% (n=28) still exceeded the recommended daily 2-unit limit in pregnancy. Multivariable logistic regression identified that women who 'binged' peri-conceptually were 3.2 times more likely to do this.

    CONCLUSION: Significant peri-conceptual consumption levels suggest a substantial proportion of alcohol-exposed pregnancies before pregnancy recognition. Not taking a detailed alcohol history, including patterns of consumption, will result in under-detection of alcohol-exposed pregnancies. The Retrospective Diary offers practitioners a detailed way of enquiring about alcohol history for this population.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)375-385
    Number of pages11
    JournalJournal of Advanced Nursing
    Issue number2
    Early online date24 Aug 2016
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2017


    • alcohol consumption
    • binge drinking
    • teratogenesis
    • pregnancy
    • antenatal
    • prenatal care
    • midwives
    • questionnaries


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