A study carried out in America, Binge drinking in the preconception period and the risk of unintended pregnancy: implications for women and their children, has shown that up to 14% of unintended pregnancies were associated with alcohol consumption.

The Study’s objective was to investigate the relationship between unintended pregnancies and binge drinking. Binge drinking was defined as consuming more than 5 alcoholic drinks on any one occasion.

In Australia 47% of all pregnancies are unplanned. Nearly a third of these occur when women have been binge drinking.* Unplanned pregnancies due to drinking are far more likely to occur in young unmarried women.

Professor Elizabeth Elliott, from the Discipline of Paediatrics and Child Health, said “with an increasing trend towards binge drinking and unplanned pregnancy rates, many women are unwittingly putting their babies at risk.”

Paul Dillon, author of Teenagers, Alcohol and Drugs and Generation Next speaker said in his book “binge drinking or drinking to get drunk is often the cause for alcohol poisoning… At very high alcohol levels, a person loses consciousness and goes into a coma. People do die as a result of alcohol poisoning”.

The American study determined pregnancy intention by asking “Thinking back to just before you got pregnant, how did you feel about becoming pregnant?” Unintended pregnancies were defined as pregnancies in which the mother responded either that she wanted to be pregnant later (ie, the pregnancy was mistimed) or that she did not want to get pregnant at any time (ie, the pregnancy was unwanted).

The study found that out of the 72,000 women interviewed, 45% of pregnancies that occurred were unintended. Out of this percentage, 14% were associated with binge drinking. Women who binge drank in the preconception period were more likely to be white and unmarried; to smoke and be exposed to violence in the preconception period; and to consume alcohol, binge drink, and smoke during pregnancy.

Conclusions:
Binge drinking was associated with unintended pregnancies resulting in a live birth. Preconception binge drinkers were more likely to engage in other risky behaviours, including drinking during pregnancy.

The study also said that unintended pregnancies were “associated with inadequate prenatal care, maternal infections, obstetric complications, low birth weight infants, poor child development, and subsequent child abuse. Unintended pregnancies may also limit educational and career opportunities for young mothers.”

Another study, The Relationship Between Recent Alcohol Use and Sexual Behaviors: Gender Differences Among Sexually Transmitted Disease Clinic Patients, conducted in 2008 found that rates of gonorrhea were nearly five times higher in female binge drinkers than in women who abstained from alcohol.

* Professor Elizabeth Elliott, from the Discipline of Paediatrics and Child Health.

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.
Source: Binge drinking in the preconception period and the risk of unintended pregnancy: implications for women and their children.