Consumption of alcohol during pregnancy—A multinational European study

  • Ann-Charlotte Mårdby
    Corresponding author at: Röda Stråket 8 bv, SE-413 45, Gothenburg, Sweden.
    Research and Development, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Röda Stråket 8, 40345 Gothenburg, Sweden

    Epidemiology and Social Medicine, Sahlgrenska Academy at University of Gothenburg, P.O. Box 453, 40530, Gothenburg, Sweden
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  • Angela Lupattelli
    PharmacoEpidemiology and Drug Safety Research Group, Department of Pharmacy, School of Pharmacy, Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, University of Oslo, Norway
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  • Gunnel Hensing
    Epidemiology and Social Medicine, Sahlgrenska Academy at University of Gothenburg, P.O. Box 453, 40530, Gothenburg, Sweden
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  • Hedvig Nordeng
    PharmacoEpidemiology and Drug Safety Research Group, Department of Pharmacy, School of Pharmacy, Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, University of Oslo, Norway

    Department of Child Health, National Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway
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Published:January 19, 2017DOI:



      Although single-country studies indicate alcohol consumption among some pregnant European women, it is difficult to interpret European differences. Few multinational studies exist using the same methodology.


      To estimate the proportion of women consuming alcohol during pregnancy in Europe, and to analyze whether between country variations could be explained by sociodemography and smoking.


      An anonymous online questionnaire was accessible for pregnant women and new mothers in 11 European countries during two months between October 2011 and February 2012 in each country. The questionnaire covered alcohol consumption, sociodemographic factors, and smoking habits during pregnancy. Descriptive analyses and logistic regression models were conducted.


      The study population consisted of 7905 women, 53.1% pregnant and 46.9% new mothers. On average, 15.8% reported alcohol consumption during pregnancy. The highest proportion of alcohol consumption during pregnancy was found in the UK (28.5%), Russia (26.5%), and Switzerland (20.9%) and the lowest in Norway (4.1%), Sweden (7.2%), and Poland (9.7%). When reporting alcohol consumption during pregnancy, 39% consumed at least one unit per month. In Italy, Switzerland, and the UK, over half consumed at least one alcohol unit per month. Higher education and smoking before pregnancy were predictors of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.


      Almost 16% of women resident in Europe consumed alcohol during pregnancy with large cross-country variations. Education and smoking prior to pregnancy could not fully explain the differences between the European countries. A united European strategy to prevent alcohol consumption during pregnancy is needed with focus on countries with the highest consumption.


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