Women who drink light-to-moderately during pregnancy have been observed to have lower risk of unfavourable pregnancy outcomes than abstainers. This has been suggested to be a result of bias. In a pooled sample, including 193 747 live-born singletons from nine European cohorts, we examined the associations between light-to-moderate drinking and preterm birth, birth weight, and small-for-gestational age in term born children (term SGA). To address potential sources of bias, we compared the associations from the total sample with a sub-sample restricted to first-time pregnant women who conceived within six months of trying, and examined whether the associations varied across calendar time. In the total sample, drinking up to around six drinks per week as compared to abstaining was associated with lower risk of preterm birth, whereas no significant associations were found for birth weight or term SGA. Drinking six or more drinks per week was associated with lower birth weight and higher risk of term SGA, but no increased risk of preterm birth. The analyses restricted to women without reproductive experience revealed similar results. Before 2000 approximately half of pregnant women drank alcohol. This decreased to 39% in 2000-2004, and 14% in 2005-2011. Before 2000, every additional drink was associated with reduced mean birth weight, whereas in 2005-2011, the mean birth weight increased with increasing intake. The period-specific associations between low-to-moderate drinking and birth weight, which also were observed for term SGA, are indicative of bias. It is impossible to distinguish if the bias is attributable to unmeasured confounding, which change over time or cohort heterogeneity.

Published in Pregnant Women

OBJECTIVES: To determine the effects of low-to-moderate levels of maternal alcohol consumption in pregnancy on pregnancy and longer-term offspring outcomes.

SEARCH STRATEGY: Medline, Embase, Web of Science and Psych info from inception to 11 July 2016.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Prospective observational studies, negative control and quasi experimental studies of pregnant women estimating effects of light drinking in pregnancy (</=32 g/week) versus abstaining. Pregnancy outcomes such as birth weight and features of fetal alcohol syndrome were examined.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: One reviewer extracted data and another checked extracted data. Random effects meta-analyses were performed where applicable, and a narrative summary of findings was carried out otherwise.

MAIN RESULTS: 24 cohort and two quasi experimental studies were included. With the exception of birth size and gestational age, there was insufficient data to meta-analyse or make robust conclusions. Odds of small for gestational age (SGA) and preterm birth were higher for babies whose mothers consumed up to 32 g/week versus none, but estimates for preterm birth were also compatible with no association: summary OR 1.08, 95% CI (1.02 to 1.14), I2 0%, (seven studies, all estimates were adjusted) OR 1.10, 95% CI (0.95 to 1.28), I2 60%, (nine studies, includes one unadjusted estimates), respectively. The earliest time points of exposure were used in the analysis.

CONCLUSION: Evidence of the effects of drinking </=32 g/week in pregnancy is sparse. As there was some evidence that even light prenatal alcohol consumption is associated with being SGA and preterm delivery, guidance could advise abstention as a precautionary principle but should explain the paucity of evidence.

Published in Pregnant Women

AIM: To examine whether exposure to increased alcohol availability in utero is associated with later alcohol-related health problems.

METHOD: Register-linked population-based longitudinal study using data from a natural experiment setting, including 363 286 children born 1965-71. An experimental alcohol policy change was piloted in two regions of Sweden in 1967-68, where access to strong beer increased for 16-20 year old. Children exposed in utero to the policy change were compared to children born elsewhere in Sweden (excluding a border area), and to children born before and after the policy change. The outcome was obtained from the National Hospital Discharge Register using the Swedish index of alcohol-related inpatient care. Hazard ratios (HR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI) were estimated by Cox regression analysis.

RESULTS: The results suggest that children conceived by young mothers prior to the policy change but exposed to it in utero had a slightly increased risk of alcohol-related health problems later in life (HR 1.26, 95% CI 0.94-1.68). A tendency towards an inverse association was found among children conceived by older mothers (HR 0.88, 95% CI 0.74-1.06).

CONCLUSION: Results obtained from a natural experiment setting found no consistent evidence of long-term health consequences among children exposed in utero to an alcohol policy change. Some evidence however suggested an increased risk of alcohol-related health problems among the exposed children of young mothers.

Published in General Health

BACKGROUND: A strict high legal age limit for alcohol purchases decreases adolescents' access to alcohol, but little is known about long-term health effects. The aim was to estimate the effect of increased alcohol availability during adolescence on alcohol-related morbidity and mortality.

METHODS: A nationwide register-based study using data from a natural experiment setting. In two regions of Sweden, strong beer (4.5%-5.6% alcohol by volume) became temporarily available for purchase in grocery stores for individuals 16 years or older (instead of 21) in 1967/1968. The intervention group was defined as all individuals living in the intervention area when they were 14-20 years old (n=72 110). The remaining Swedish counties excluding bordering counties, without the policy change, were used as the control group (n=456 224). The outcomes of alcohol-related morbidity and mortality were collected from the Hospital Discharge Register and Cause of Death Register, in which average follow-up times were 38 years and 41 years, respectively. HRs with 95% CIs were obtained by Cox regression analysis.

RESULTS: In the fully adjusted model, no clear evidence of an association between increased alcohol availability during adolescence and alcohol-related morbidity (HR: 0.99, 95% CI 0.96 to 1.02) or mortality (HR: 1.02, 95% CI 0.95 to 1.10) was found.

CONCLUSION: The initial elevated risk of alcohol-related morbidity and mortality later in life among adolescents exposed to increased access to strong beer in Sweden vanished when a regional measure population density of locality was included in the model, which is important to consider in future research.

Published in General Health
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The authors have taken reasonable care in ensuring the accuracy of the information herein at the time of publication and are not responsible for any errors or omissions. Read more on our disclaimer.