Drinking Alcohol In Early Pregnancy Linked To Miscarriage Risk


A recent study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology has found that each week a woman drinking alcohol in the first month of pregnancy is associated with an 8% incremental increase in risk of miscarriage. The study examined the timing, amount and type of alcohol use during pregnancy and how these factors relate to miscarriage risk.

The effects of alcohol use actually increase through the ninth week of pregnancy. What’s more shocking is that risk accrues regardless of whether a mother has less than one or more than four drinks each week. It doesn’t matter what type of alcohol is consumed or whether it was consumed in a binge: either way risk is present.

Overall, very little is known about how alcohol causes harm during early pregnancy, but it may modify hormone patterns, altering the quality of gestation, induce stress or impair development of key pathways.

It may be comforting to know that most women change their alcohol use after a positive pregnancy test. However, half of the 5,353 women included in the study had consumed alcoholic beverages around conception and during the first weeks of pregnancy. Participants who stopped drinking after a missed period had a 37% greater risk of miscarriage compared to women who did not drink at all.

“Abstaining from alcohol around conception or during pregnancy has long been advised for many reasons, including preventing fetal alcohol syndrome. Nonetheless, modest levels of consumption are often seen as likely to be safe,” said Katherine Hartmann, MD, PhD, Vice President for Research Integration at VUMC who are the authors of the study.

The results of the study may be alarming. A belief that alcohol consumption in moderation during pregnancy is not harmful is dangerous and can cause impacts on the unborn child. One in six pregnancies ends in miscarriage. Miscarriage is associated with great emotional loss.

Risk of miscarriage did not peak in patterns related to timing of alcohol use. There was no evidence either that increased dosages of alcohol contributed to the level of risk. However, because alcohol use is most common in the first weeks of pregnancy, understanding how timing relates to risk matters. Embryos develop most rapidly and lay the foundation for organ development in the first weeks of pregnancy. This is why the implications of alcohol use in early pregnancy are so dreadful.

To avoid increased risk of a miscarriage, the authors of the study recommend using home pregnancy kits to reliably detect pregnancy before a missed period and ceasing alcohol use when planning a pregnancy or when pregnancy may manifest.

If you are planning to get pregnant it’s worth a trip to the OBGYN. Call me for all gynaecological appointments in Sydney. I am open for consultations 9:00am to 5:00pm Monday and Friday. Call my office on 0408 444 306 to have a conversation about what I can do to help you in your situation.