Continuous alcohol use in early weeks of pregnancy increases risk of miscarriage

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Researchers say all alcohol use should cease at the start of pregnancy

Recent studies have highlighted how drinking alcohol during pregnancy can come with serious side effects, and it’s been determined by researchers that there’s no safe level of alcohol to consume while pregnant. 

Now, a new study conducted by researchers from Vanderbilt University Medical Center has found that consuming alcohol during the early weeks of pregnancy can increase the risk of miscarriage. The study revealed that the longer into the first trimester that women consume alcohol, the more that risk increases. 

“Abstaining from alcohol around conception or during pregnancy has long been advised for many reasons, including preventing fetal alcohol syndrome,” said researcher Dr. Katherine Hartmann. “Nonetheless, modest levels of consumption are often seen as likely to be safe. For this reason, our findings are alarming. Levels of use that some women, and care providers, may believe are responsible are harmful, and no amount can be suggested as safe regarding pregnancy loss.” 

Eliminating alcohol use

To better understand how alcohol use can affect pregnancy, the researchers had over 5,300 women participate in the study; the women were either in the early days of their pregnancy or were planning to become pregnant soon. The researchers asked them questions to gauge their attitudes about alcohol consumption during pregnancy and then followed them through their pregnancies to see how alcohol played a role.

Over 40 percent of the women involved in the study reported that they stopped drinking alcohol within just a few days of finding out that they were pregnant. However, roughly 50 percent reported that they consumed alcohol through the early weeks of their pregnancy. 

The study revealed that the participants had a greater chance of having a miscarriage based on how long they waited to cut off drinking alcohol. Compared to those who stopped drinking alcohol at the earliest signs of pregnancy, those who continued drinking into the first trimester were at a nearly 40 percent increased risk of miscarriage. 

The researchers explained that the early weeks of pregnancy are some of the most pivotal in terms of development, so it’s important that consumers understand the risks associated with drinking during this time. 

“Combining the facts that the cohort is large, comes from diverse communities, captures data early in pregnancy, and applies more advanced analytic techniques than prior studies, we’re confident we’ve raised important concerns,” said researcher Dr. Alex Sundermann. 

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