NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Women may not always tell the truth about their drinking habits during pregnancy, the findings of a new study hint.
When Swedish researchers surveyed 103 pregnant women about their alcohol use and also tested their urine and hair to check for alcohol byproducts, they found that seven had levels "highly suspicious of heavy drinking," but just one admitted to drinking at all.
"You cannot solely rely on the self-reports given by the women; you have to add some other measure of (alcohol) consumption to get a better test of how many women consume (alcohol) during pregnancy," Dr. Inger Sundstrom Poromaa of Uppsala University, who led the study, told Reuters Health.
She and her colleagues had the 103 women in the study complete the AUDIT test -- which stands for Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test. They also tested their hair and urine for biomarkers of alcohol use. Markers of alcohol use can remain in the hair for months and "have the potential to distinguish between social drinking and heavy repeated drinking," they explain in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Ninety-four of the women studied, or 91 percent, said they hadn't consumed alcohol at all during their pregnancy. Of the nine who admitted to drinking while pregnant, six said they drank once a month or less often, while three said they drank two to four times a month. Seven said they had one to two glasses of wine each time that they drank, one said she had three to four glasses, and another did not report how much alcohol she consumed.
However, hair tests detected alcohol use in 19 of the women, with levels in seven suggestive of heavy drinking. Based on the results, 25 percent of the women did in fact drink alcohol during pregnancy, but just 8.7 percent admitted to doing so on the AUDIT questionnaire.
The findings are "discouraging," the researchers say, given that abstinence from alcohol during pregnancy is recommended.
SOURCE: American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, April 2008.