Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) have published a study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, which finds a strong link between alcohol consumption and miscarriage.
The researchers had taken into account several factors like the timing of alcohol consumption, how much alcohol was consumed, and type of alcohol used to reach the conclusion that alcohol increases miscarriage risk before 20 weeks’ gestation.
Impact of alcohol use is less severe before the ninth week of pregnancy. And after that, risk of miscarriage increases irrespective of how much alcohol a pregnant woman consumes, which type of alcohol she consumes.
Once pregnancy is confirmed, most women change their alcohol use, however, even those women who are planning to conceive, don’t change their alcohol use habit before a pregnancy is confirmed.
Half of the 5,353 women included in the analysis reported alcohol use around conception and during the first weeks of pregnancy.
The median gestational age for stopping alcohol use was 29 days. Although 41% of women who changed their use did so within three days of a positive pregnancy test, those who stopped consumption near their missed period had a 37% greater risk of miscarriage compared to women who did not use alcohol.
“Abstaining from alcohol around conception or during pregnancy has long been advised for many reasons, including preventing fetal alcohol syndrome. Nonetheless, modest levels of consumption are often seen as likely to be safe,” said Katherine Hartmann, MD, Ph.D., vice president for Research Integration at VUMC.
The latest findings are alarming. They have confirmed that during the first five to 10 weeks of pregnancy, even so-called safe drinking suggested by many care providers may lead to the loss of pregnancy.
One in six recognized pregnancies ends in miscarriage. It will always be hard to determine the reason behind each case. However, it is always advisable to avoid alcohol use during early pregnancy.
Biologically, little is known about how alcohol causes harm during early pregnancy. But it may increase miscarriage risk by modifying hormone patterns, altering the quality of implantation, increasing oxidative stress or impairing key pathways.
The study recruited women planning a pregnancy or in early pregnancy from eight metropolitan areas in Tennessee, North Carolina and Texas. Participants were interviewed during the first trimester about their alcohol use in a four-month window.
Miscarriage brings great emotional cost. There are still many unanswered questions about alcohol’s role in the loss of pregnancy. However, researchers think that alcohol does maximum damage when the embryo develops most rapidly and lays down the pattern for organ development
Researchers stress the importance of home pregnancy tests, as early detection of pregnancy, stopping alcohol consumption immediately after that may reduce risk of miscarriage.