Drinking alcohol during pregnancy increases the risk of having an extremely premature baby (less than 32 weeks of gestation), especially among women aged 30 and older, US researchers warn.
They studied 3 130 pregnant women and collected information on their use of alcohol, cocaine and cigarettes.
Of the babies born to the women, 66 were extremely premature, 462 were mildly premature, and 2 602 were full-term deliveries.
The study found that alcohol and cocaine, but not cigarettes, were associated with an increased risk of having an extremely premature baby. Alcohol was a much greater risk factor than cocaine and the impact was greater in women over age 30.
Smoking still a risk
"Although we found smoking to be associated with mild preterm, but not extreme preterm delivery, smoking remains a recognised risk for preterm delivery and should still be considered a problem from a foetal perspective," Robert J. Sokol, distinguished professor of obstetrics and gynaecology, and director of the C.S. Mott Centre for Human Growth and Development at Wayne State University, said in a prepared statement.
He noted that 92 percent of the women in the study were black, and the findings need to be confirmed in other studies.
"The baseline risk for preterm delivery is higher among African Americans than whites in the United States. There are known ethnicity effects for prenatal alcohol exposure, so studying pregnancies among whites would be sensible, yet if I had to guess, I think we would see changes in the same direction," Sokol said.
The bottom line: drinking alcohol during pregnancy increases the risk of extreme preterm delivery and it "would be best for women to just not drink during pregnancy," Sokol said.
The findings are published in the June issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. – (HealthDayNews)