Alcohol in Early Pregnancy Associated with Preterm, Small Babies

Camilla Nykjaer, PhD Student School of Food Science and Nutrition University of Leeds, Leeds, Interview with:
Camilla Nykjaer, PhD Student
School of Food Science and Nutrition
University of Leeds, Leeds, UK What are the main findings of the study?

Answer: In our study, there was an association between the mother drinking alcohol during early pregnancy and being born preterm or small for gestational age. Babies of women who drank more than 2 units of alcohol per week in the first trimester were more likely to be born preterm, small for gestational age and with lower birth weight compared to non-drinkers, even after adjusting for a range of confounders including cotinine levels as a biomarker for smoking status. The association with preterm birth was present even in those mothers who reported drinking less than 2 units/week. Were any of the findings unexpected?

Answer: Alcohol is a known teratogen. Evidence regarding the damaging effects of heavy drinking in pregnancy is well established, the effect of low intakes is however unclear. We believe our study adds evidence that even very low intakes of alcohol in early pregnancy can have adverse effects on birth outcomes. Maternal alcohol intakes which exceeded 2 units/week in the period leading up to pregnancy were also found to be associated with fetal growth, suggesting that the peri-conceptual period may be particularly sensitive to the effects of alcohol on the fetus. What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Answer: Clinicians should advise pregnant women and women planning to become pregnant to avoid drinking alcohol all together when trying to conceive and throughout pregnancy. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Answer: This is an observational study so conclusions about causality cannot be drawn. Due to ethical reasons a randomised controlled trial cannot be conducted but it would be important to reproduce this study in other cohorts with bigger sample sizes in different countries.,


Maternal alcohol intake prior to and during pregnancy and risk of adverse birth outcomes: evidence from a British cohortCamilla Nykjaer,Nisreen A Alwan,Darren C Greenwood,Nigel A B Simpson,Alastair W M Hay, Kay L M White, Janet E Cade

J Epidemiol Community Health jech-2013-202934Published Online First: 10 March 2014 doi:10.1136/jech-2013-202934

Last Updated on March 13, 2014 by Marie Benz MD FAAD