Prenatal alcohol use, a leading preventable cause of birth defects and developmental disabilities, remains a prevalent public health concern in the United States. This study aims to detect the proportion and correlates of prenatal alcohol use in the prenatal care settings in Alabama. Prenatal care settings were chosen because of their potential as stable locations to screen for and to reduce prenatal alcohol use within a community.
We conducted a cross-sectional study of 3,046 women in the 22 and 23 weeks of gestation who sought prenatal care in 8 community-based public clinics and participated in the Perinatal Emphasis Research Center project in Jefferson County, Alabama, from 1997 to 2001. Frequency and quantity of alcohol use in the past 3 months were assessed by research nurses during face-to-face interviews. We conducted logistic regression analyses to calculate adjusted odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) of correlates of prenatal alcohol use.
Participants were predominantly young, African American, and unmarried, 86.5% on Medicaid. The proportion of alcohol use in the second trimester of pregnancy was 5.1%; 0.3% of women reported 4 or more drinks on a drinking day to research nurses. Older maternal age (OR = 1.11; 95% CI = 1.08 to 1.15), use of welfare (OR = 1.43; 95% CI = 1.02 to 2.02), and male partner–perpetrated violence (OR = 2.96; 95% CI = 1.92 to 4.56) were positively associated with elevated risk of prenatal alcohol use. Protective factors included higher levels of self-esteem (OR = 0.94; 95% CI = 0.89 to 0.98) and more years of education (OR = 0.88; 95% CI = 0.78 to 0.98).
Prenatal alcohol use remains a public health issue among low-income pregnant women in Jefferson County, Alabama. Research nurses detected it in the second trimester. Future studies need to encourage screening for prenatal alcohol use in the prenatal care settings by obstetrician-gynecologists, family physicians, nurses, and midwives. Combined interventions to educate and empower women and strengthen families are needed.
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