Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Attitudes and behaviour predict women's intention to drink alcohol during pregnancy: the challenge for health professionals

Elizabeth Peadon1*, Janet Payne2, Nadine Henley3, Heather D'Antoine2, Anne Bartu4, Colleen O'Leary2, Carol Bower2 and Elizabeth J Elliott1

Author Affiliations

1 Discipline of Paediatrics and Child Health, Sydney Medical School, The University of Sydney, The Children's Hospital at Westmead, Locked Bag 4001, Westmead, NSW 2145, Australia

2 Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, Centre for Child Health Research, The University of Western Australia, PO Box 855, West Perth, Western Australia 6872, Australia

3 Centre for Applied Social Marketing and Research, Edith Cowan University, 270 Joondalup Drive, Joondalup, Western Australia 6027, Australia

4 School of Nursing and Midwifery, Faculty Health Sciences, Curtin University of Technology, GPO Box U1987, Perth, Western Australia 6845, Australia

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:584  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-584

Published: 22 July 2011

Abstract

Background

To explore women's alcohol consumption in pregnancy, and potential predictors of alcohol consumption in pregnancy including: demographic characteristics; and women's knowledge and attitudes regarding alcohol consumption in pregnancy and its effects on the fetus.

Methods

We conducted a national cross-sectional survey via computer assisted telephone interview of 1103 Australian women aged 18 to 45 years. Participants were randomly selected from the Electronic White Pages. Pregnant women were not eligible to participate. Quotas were set for age groups and a minimum of 100 participants per state to ensure a national sample reflecting the population. The questionnaire was based on a Health Canada survey with additional questions constructed by the investigators. Descriptive statistics were calculated and logistic regression analyses were used to assess associations of alcohol consumption in pregnancy with participants' characteristics, knowledge and attitudes.

Results

The majority of women (89.4%) had consumed alcohol in the last 12 months. During their last pregnancy (n = 700), 34.1% drank alcohol. When asked what they would do if planning a pregnancy (n = 1103), 31.6% said they would consume alcohol and 4.8% would smoke. Intention to consume alcohol in a future pregnancy was associated with: alcohol use in the last pregnancy (adjusted OR (aOR) 43.9; 95% Confidence Interval (CI) 27.0 to 71.4); neutral or positive attitudes towards alcohol use in pregnancy (aOR 5.1; 95% CI 3.6 to 7.1); intention to smoke in a future pregnancy (aOR 4.7; 95% CI 2.5 to 9.0); and more frequent and higher current alcohol consumption.

Conclusions

Women's past pregnancy and current drinking behaviour, and attitudes to alcohol use in pregnancy were the strongest predictors of alcohol consumption in pregnancy. Targeted interventions for women at higher risk of alcohol consumption in pregnancy are needed to change women's risk perception and behaviour.