Pregnancy and alcohol consumption in the Ukraine
Alcohol consumption during pregnancy is broadly considered to be a pointless health risk for both mother and unborn child. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are no established safe levels of alcohol use during pregnancy. Drinking during pregnancy has been linked to fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) – a wide range of physical and mental disabilities, plus lasting emotional and behavioral problems.
In a 2012 CDC study, just under 8 percent of pregnant women (1 in 13) reported consuming alcohol within the past 30 days (compared to 51.5 percent of non-pregnant women). For binge drinking (six drinks on one occasion), the percentages were 1.4 percent and 15 percent, respectively.
These are numbers that experts and advocates alike say should be reduced in the U.S. The problem is even more daunting elsewhere.
In a recent paper published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, Christina Chambers, MPH, PhD, and Wladimir Wertelecki, MD, both in the UC San Diego School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics, report that alcohol consumption among pregnant women in the Ukraine is alarmingly high.
The study, which included nearly 12,000 pregnant women in two regions of the Ukraine, found that among regular alcohol consumers, more than half (54.8 percent) of the women surveyed drank some alcohol in the month surrounding conception and 12.9 percent reported drinking three or more drinks on at least one occasion during the early months of pregnancy.
Consumption rates declined only slightly at mid-pregnancy. Nearly half of the women in the study (46.3 percent) reported consuming some alcohol in the most recent month of pregnancy and 9.2 percent said they drank at least three servings of alcohol at a sitting.
“What this tells us is that the women in the study did not avoid alcohol entirely during their pregnancy, and substantial numbers drank at risky levels,” said Chambers.
“The findings of both these studies suggest there is a need and opportunity for prevention in both in the Ukraine and the United States. It is so important that we continue to raise awareness of FASD and educate all women of reproductive age that prenatal alcohol can be harmful to the developing baby.”
The Ukraine survey was conducted in collaboration with Omni-Net for Children, a not-for-profit international non-governmental organization in the Ukraine involved in birth defects prevention. The study was part of an ongoing research effort funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse and the Collaborative Initiative on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, which promotes research on the mechanisms and prevention of FASD.