Researchers at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark have found that a moderate intake of alcohol can raise the risk of stillbirths but may not affect later infant mortality.
The study of almost 25,000 Danish women was carried out between 1989 and 1996. Information on alcohol intake, other lifestyle factors, maternal characteristics and obstetric risk factors was obtained from self-administered questionnaires and hospital files. The research is published in the recent issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.
The results show that the risk ratio for stillbirth among women who consumed five drinks each week during pregnancy was 2.96, almost three times greater than that in women who consumed less than one drink per week.
In the study, the team also examined other factors such as smoking habits, caffeine intake, age and occupational status, in order to investigate the specific impact of alcohol on the pregnancy. The risk of stillbirth rose with alcohol use, but the sharpest increase was in those women who had five or more drinks each week.
The rate of stillbirth due to foetoplacental dysfunction increased across alcohol categories, from 1.37 per 1,000 births for women consuming less than one drink each week to 8.83 per 1,000 births for women consuming five or more drinks weekly.
However, the increased risk could not be attributed to the effect of alcohol on the risk of low birth weight, premature delivery, or malformations. Researchers concluded that there was little if any association between alcohol intake and infant death.