Negative Emotions During Pregnancy Often Leads To Binge Drinking
October 15, 2013

Negative Emotions During Pregnancy Often Leads To Binge Drinking

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

Pregnant women are advised to generally avoid alcohol, especially when it comes to binge drinking, and a new study of Norwegian women has found that the more negative a woman's outlook is on life, the more likely she is to turn to alcohol.

According to the study’s results, published in Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, the official journal of the Nordic Federation of Societies of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 16 percent of the over 66,000 pregnant women in the study reported light alcohol use during their first trimester and 10 percent reported light use in their second trimester. More alarmingly, 12 percent of participants said they had binged on alcohol during their first trimester and 0.5 percent said they had in the second trimester.

The Norwegian researchers who conducted the study also looked at how women’s negative attitudes, or negative affectivity, reflected their alcohol use during pregnancy. Experts consider negative affectivity to be the propensity for experiencing negative feelings such as anxiety and depression. Persons with negative affectivity are more likely to have an adverse view of themselves and the world around them. Previous research has linked negative affectivity with greater susceptibility to stress, strong emotional reactions to daily events, and a desire to use intoxicants for coping with stress.

To quantify alcohol use, researchers used the Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test-Consumption (AUDIT-C), with drinking 0.5 to 2 units, one to four times per month considered light use and drinking five alcohol units or more in a single drinking episode considered binge drinking. The research team used the Norwegian standard of one drink unit, "one glass (1/3 liter or ≈11 oz) of beer, one sherry glass of fortified wine, or one snaps (shot) glass of spirit or liqueur."

Expectant mothers’ negative affectivity was gauged at weeks 17 and 30 of the pregnancy using the Hopkins Symptom Checklist, a test for measuring anxiety and depression. Previous research has established anxiety and depression symptoms as measures of negative affectivity.

The research team found that with each additional unit of maternal negative affectivity, on a scale from zero to two with increments of 0.5, the odds for light alcohol use increased in the first and second trimester by 27 percent and 28 percent, respectively. The odds for binge drinking were even greater, at 55 percent increase in the first trimester and over 110 percent increase in the second trimester for each additional unit.

"Our findings clearly show a link between a mother's negative emotions, such as depression and anxiety, and light alcohol use and binge drinking during pregnancy," concluded study author Dr. Kim Stene-Larsen from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Oslo, Norway. "Further study is needed to understand why women continue to drink alcohol while pregnant despite health warnings."

Mothers who drink alcohol while pregnant put their unborn child at increased risk for premature birth, low birthweight, fetal alcohol syndrome and even death. Due to these highly unnecessary risks, health experts around the world advise pregnant women to abstain from alcohol while trying to conceive and during pregnancy. Despite these efforts, studies have shown that 25 percent to 50 percent of women report drinking alcohol while pregnant.