Time trends in alcohol intake in early pregnancy and official recommendations in Denmark, 1998–2013

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Abstract

Introduction.

In 1999, Danish health authorities modified their recommendation to pregnant women, condoning some alcohol intake. In 2007, the recommendation was changed to one of alcohol abstention. We aimed to assess changes in average alcohol intake (drinks/week) and alcohol binge drinking in early pregnancy from 1998 to 2013 in relation to the changes in official recommendations in 1999 (condoning some intake) and 2007 (abstention).

Material and methods.

All Danish-speaking pregnant women attending routine antenatal care at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark, between September 1998 and June 2013 were invited to participate. During the study period, 68 395 pregnant women filled in a self-administered questionnaire at gestational week 11 (median). From 1998, questions on binge drinking included data on the number of binge episodes (≥5 drinks on a single occasion), and the timing (gestational week) of these episodes. Additional questions on binge drinking defined as ≥3 drinks on a single occasion were asked separately from 2000. A question assessed the average number of alcohol-containing drinks per week the woman consumed currently at the time of filling in the questionnaire.

Results.

From 1998 to 2013 the proportion of women reporting no alcohol intake increased from 31.2 to 83.3% (p < 0.001), the main decline occurring between 1998 and 2007. The proportion of binge drinkers decreased (p < 0.001) but remained more stable across the period.

Conclusions.

The decline in the proportion of pregnant women consuming alcohol occurred independently of official recommendations. Increasing national and international awareness may partly explain the changes.

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