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Ann Epidemiol. 1997 Oct;7(7):498-508.

Low-to-moderate gestational alcohol use and intrauterine growth retardation, low birthweight, and preterm delivery.

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Yale University School of Medicine, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, New Haven, CT 06511, USA.



Heavy drinking during pregnancy is an established risk factor for fetal alcohol syndrome and other adverse perinatal outcomes. However, there is still debate as to the effects of low-to-moderate drinking during pregnancy.


This prospective investigation was based on 2714 singleton live births at Yale-New Haven Hospital during 1988-1992. Alcohol drinking during pregnancy was evaluated with respect to intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR), preterm delivery, and low birthweight.


Mild drinking, defined as > 0.10-0.25 oz of absolute alcohol per day, during the first month of pregnancy was associated with a protective effect on IUGR (OR, 0.39; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.20-0.76). Overall, drinking during month 1 of pregnancy suggested a curvilinear effect on growth retardation, with consumption of > 1.00 oz of absolute alcohol per day showing increased risk. Drinking during month 7 was associated with a uniform increase in the odds of preterm delivery; the ORs were 2.88 (95% CI, 1.64-5.05) for light drinking and 2.96 (95% CI, 1.32-6.67) for mild-to-moderate alcohol consumption.


Differences in the risk estimates for IUGR and preterm delivery may indicate etiological differences that warrant further investigation of these outcomes and critical periods of exposure. Low birthweight is not a useful neonatal outcome for this exposure because it is a heterogeneous mix of preterm delivery and IUGR. Despite the observed protective effects of mild drinking on IUGR, the increased risk of preterm delivery with alcohol use supports a policy of abstinence during pregnancy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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