(HealthDay News) – Alcohol consumption, including binge drinking, is common during early pregnancy among women in Ireland, according to a study published online Sept. 6 in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Fergus P. McCarthy, PhD, MD, from University College Cork in Ireland, and colleagues used data from 5,628 nulliparous pregnant women participating in the Screening for Pregnancy Endpoints study. A standardized questionnaire was administered to participants at 15 weeks of gestation regarding alcohol intake before pregnancy and until the time of interview. Consumption of alcohol was stratified as occasional (1–2 units per week), low (3–7 units per week), moderate (8–14 units per week), and heavy (>14 units per week). Binge consumption was defined as consumption of ≥6 alcohol units in one session.

The researchers found that consumption was reported as occasional, low, moderate, and heavy by 19%, 25%, 11%, and 5% of participants, respectively. More than one-third of participants (34%) reported binge alcohol consumption in the three months before pregnancy, and nearly one-quarter (23%) reported binge consumption in early pregnancy. There were no changes observed in the odds of a small-for-gestational-age neonate, reduced birth weight, preeclampsia, or spontaneous preterm birth in those consuming occasional to heavy quantities in early pregnancy. Likewise, the odds of these adverse pregnancy outcomes were not altered for early pregnancy binge drinkers.

“There was no association between alcohol consumption before 15 weeks of gestation and small for gestational age, reduced birth weight, preeclampsia, or spontaneous preterm birth,” the authors write.

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