Open Access Research article

Prevalence of alcohol use before and during pregnancy and predictors of drinking during pregnancy: a cross sectional study in Sweden

Janna Skagerström1*, Siw Alehagen2, Elisabet Häggström-Nordin34, Kristofer Årestedt2 and Per Nilsen5

Author affiliations

1 Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Division of Community Medicine, Linköping University, Linköping, SE-581 83, Sweden

2 Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Division of Nursing Science, Faculty of Health Sciences, Linköping, SE-581 85, Sweden

3 Department of Women's and Children's Health, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden

4 School of Health, Care and Social Sciences, Mälardalen University, Västerås, Sweden

5 Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Division of Health Care Analysis, Linköping University, Linköping, SE-581 83, Sweden

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Citation and License

BMC Public Health 2013, 13:780  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-780

Published: 27 August 2013



There is a paucity of research on predictors for drinking during pregnancy among women in Sweden and reported prevalence rates differ considerably between studies conducted at different antenatal care centres. Since this knowledge is relevant for preventive work the aim of this study was to investigate these issues using a multicenter approach.


The study was conducted at 30 antenatal care centers across Sweden from November 2009 to December 2010. All women in pregnancy week 18 or more with a scheduled visit were asked to participate in the study. The questionnaire included questions on sociodemographic data, alcohol consumption prior to and during the pregnancy, tobacco use before and during pregnancy, and social support.


Questionnaires from 1594 women were included in the study. A majority, 84%, of the women reported alcohol consumption the year prior to pregnancy; about 14% were categorized as having hazardous consumption, here defined as a weekly consumption of > 9 standard drinks containing 12 grams of pure alcohol or drinking more than 4 standard drinks at the same occasion. Approximately 6% of the women consumed alcohol at least once after pregnancy recognition, of which 92% never drank more than 1 standard drink at a time. Of the women who were hazardous drinkers before pregnancy, 19% reduced their alcohol consumption when planning their pregnancy compared with 33% of the women with moderate alcohol consumption prior to pregnancy. Factors predicting alcohol consumption during pregnancy were older age, living in a large city, using tobacco during pregnancy, lower score for social support, stronger alcohol habit before pregnancy and higher score for social drinking motives.


The prevalence of drinking during pregnancy is relatively low in Sweden. However, 84% of the women report drinking in the year preceding pregnancy and most of these women continue to drink until pregnancy recognition, which means that they might have consumed alcohol in early pregnancy. Six factors were found to predict alcohol consumption during pregnancy. These factors should be addressed in the work to prevent alcohol-exposed pregnancies.