Thursday, February 21, 2002
NEW YORK, Feb 21 (Reuters Health) - Moderate drinking during
pregnancy may raise the risk of stillbirth, but may not affect later
infant mortality, a study of nearly 25,000 Danish women suggests.
Researchers found that the risk of stillbirth was three times greater
among pregnant women who said they drank five or more times per week,
compared with those who reported having less than one drink a week. But
there was "little if any association" between alcohol intake
and the risk of infant death, they report in the February 15th issue of
the American Journal of Epidemiology.
Alcohol use during pregnancy is known to raise the risk of physical,
mental and behavioral problems in infants and children. Because there is
no known "safe" level of alcohol exposure for the fetus, women
are advised to completely abstain from drinking while pregnant.
The specific impact drinking has on the odds of stillbirth and
newborn and infant death has been unclear, however, according to Dr.
Ulrik Kesmodel, of Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark, and
So the investigators looked at alcohol use, as well as smoking,
caffeine intake, age and other factors, among 24,768 women with
singleton pregnancies between 1989 and 1996.
Overall, there were 116 stillbirths and 119 infant deaths by age 1,
Kesmodel's team found. The risk of stillbirth rose in tandem with
alcohol use, but showed the steepest increase among the relatively few
women who had five or more drinks each week. There was a trend toward
higher infant mortality risk among these women as well, but the link was
not significant, the report indicates.
The researchers note that the higher risk of stillbirth in this study
appeared to be largely due to "fetoplacental dysfunction,"
which includes problems such as intrauterine growth retardation,
complications related to the umbilical cord, and a cut-off of oxygen to
The rate of stillbirth due to such problems was nearly 9 per 1,000
births among women who had five or more drinks a week, compared with
just over 1 stillbirth per 1,000 among women who reported less than one
drink per week.
SOURCE: American Journal of Epidemiology 2002;155:305-312.