The sample comprised 2,264 women from a Swedish antenatal clinic. Retrospective self-report data were collected on alcohol consumption before and during pregnancy, using the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), and on nicotine use. Specific alcohol biomarkers for excessive drinking, carbohydrate-deficient transferrin (CDT) in serum and phosphatidylethanol (PEth) in whole blood, were determined during mid-pregnancy in a subsample of the women. Data on labor and early characteristics of the child were also assessed.
Before pregnancy, 89% of the women regularly consumed alcohol and 49% reported occasional or frequent binge drinking. Nicotine was used by 15% before and by 5% during pregnancy. During pregnancy, 12% continued using alcohol and 5% also admitted binge drinking. However, all alcohol biomarker values were below the reporting limits (CDT ≤ 1.7% disialotransferrin; total PEth < 0.1 μmol/L). Self-reported drinking during pregnancy was associated with a higher AUDIT score before pregnancy, nicotine use at the time of the first prenatal visit, older age, and previous legal abortions.
The AUDIT questionnaire and 2 specific alcohol biomarkers were used in routine maternity care to collect information about drinking during pregnancy and thereby to identify children at risk for alcohol-related complications. While the AUDIT results suggested that a significant number of women continued using alcohol during pregnancy, implying a risk for fetal disorders, the biomarkers showed negative test values thus indicating only modest drinking levels.
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