Alcohol-use disorders during and within one year of pregnancy: A population-based cohort study 1985-2006
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Objectives: To examine alcohol-use disorders in pregnant women and the extent of under-reporting. Design: Population-based cohort study. Setting: Western Australia. Population: Women with a birth recorded on the Western Australian Midwives Notification System (1985–2006). Methods: Mothers with an International Classification of Diseases 9/10 alcohol-related diagnosis, indicating heavy alcohol consumption, recorded on population-based health datasets (non-Aboriginal n = 5839; Aboriginal n = 2583) were identified through the Western Australian data-linkage system. This ‘exposed’ cohort was frequency matched (on maternal age, year of birth of offspring, Aboriginal status) with comparison mothers without an alcohol-related diagnosis (non-Aboriginal n = 33 979; Aboriginal n = 8005). Main outcome measures: Trends in maternal alcohol diagnoses in relation to pregnancy for non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal women. The proportion of children diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) who had a mother with an alcohol diagnosis recorded during pregnancy. Results: The proportion of Aboriginal mothers in Western Australia with an alcohol diagnosis (23.1%) is ten times greater than for non-Aboriginal mothers (2.3%). There has been a six-fold increase in the percentage of non-Aboriginal births with a maternal alcohol diagnosis recorded during pregnancy and a 100-fold increase for Aboriginal births. Around 70% of the mothers of children diagnosed with FAS did not have an alcohol diagnosis recorded during pregnancy and 18% of the mothers had no record of an alcohol diagnosis. Conclusions: Maternal alcohol exposure during pregnancy is significantly under-ascertained. Given the severe risks to the fetus from heavy prenatal alcohol exposure, assessment and recording of alcohol use should be routinely undertaken in maternity and other health settings.
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