Study Shows Drinking Alcohol While Pregnant Is Common In Australia, UK, Ireland

Study Shows Drinking Alcohol While Pregnant Is Common In Australia, UK, Ireland
RS3J4250 Miller Center / Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0

A study published in the journal BMJ Open has shown that pregnant women in Australia, UK and Ireland aren’t conscious on the potential effects of drinking alcohol despite their unborn child.


The study found that 20 to 80 percent of the 17,244 women surveyed in those countries, as well as New Zealand, do not follow doctors’ orders to quit the bottle when already pregnant.

By comparison, researchers found 40 percent of Australian women drink during pregnancy, 56 percent for New Zealand women, 75 percent for UK women, and 82 percent for Irish women.

But the study noted a turning point. Once these women found they were already pregnant, they immediately stopped the habit. This dramatic turnaround occurred in the second and third trimesters. It seemed most of those surveyed only learned they are expecting after four to six weeks of pregnancy. In Australia, from 38 percent of women drinking during the first trimester, the number dropped to 7 percent in the second. There was an equal scenario in New Zealand – from 53 percent the numbers fell to 12.

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“The vast majority of Auckland women who drank in the first trimester stopped drinking at about six weeks, which is around the time women get positive pregnancy tests, or confirmation of their pregnancy,” Lesley McCowan, study co-author and Professor of Obstetrics & Gynaecology at the University of Auckland, said.

Alcohol intake bears effects both during the early pregnancy and even well into second and third trimester.

“Alcohol crosses the placenta and can have an effect on the developing brain and other organs in early pregnancy, but functional brain development continues in the second and third trimester, so exposure later in pregnancy may also have adverse effects on development.”