Surveys Underestimate Alcohol Use in Pregnant Wome
> 4/25/2008 2:07:07 PM

Despite the highly publicized peril of fetal alcohol syndrome, a small but significant percentage of women admit that they exposed their children to alcohol in the womb. Social pressure has gone a long way towards curtailing drinking, but it might also cause pregnant women to cover up their drinking. A study by Dr. Inger Poromaa in the April edition of the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology shows that many women deceive surveyors, leading to dramatic underestimates of a critical problem.

Dr. Poromaa gathered 103 pregnant women and had them answer the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT). Nine of the women admitted on the AUDIT that they drank some amount of alcohol, but only one reported levels high enough to constitute heavy drinking. It is upsetting that even one woman endangered her child with heavy consumption, but the results became much more disturbing when Dr. Poromaa collected urine and hair samples to confirm self-reports with chemical evidence.

The lab reported that seven of the women had highly suspicious traces of alcohol at levels indicative of heavy consumption. This suggests that the vast majority of alcohol abuse has been hidden from researchers who rely on self-reporting. Uncovering the true numbers may be saddening, but it is necessary to ascertain the extent of the problem so that loved ones and doctors know how likely pregnant women are to abuse alcohol. As is the case with many known health risks, we cannot assume that knowledge of the danger will automatically prevent destructive behavior. 

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