Objective assessment of alcohol consumption in early pregnancy using phosphatidylethanol: a cross‐sectional study

Leonieke J. Breunis*, Sophie Wassenaar, Barbara J. Sibbles, Ab A. Aaldriks, Hilmar H. Bijma, Eric A.P. Steegers, Birgit C.P. Koch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Background: Alcohol consumption during pregnancy is associated with major birth defects and developmental disabilities. Questionnaires concerning alcohol consumption during pregnancy underestimate alcohol use while the use of a reliable and objective biomarker for alcohol consumption enables more accurate screening. Phosphatidylethanol can detect low levels of alcohol consumption in the previous two weeks. In this study we aimed to biochemically assess the prevalence of alcohol consumption during early pregnancy using phosphatidylethanol in blood and compare this with self-reported alcohol consumption. Methods: To evaluate biochemically assessed prevalence of alcohol consumption during early pregnancy using phosphatidylethanol levels, we conducted a prospective, cross-sectional, single center study in the largest tertiary hospital of the Netherlands. All adult pregnant women who were under the care of the obstetric department of the Erasmus MC and who underwent routine blood testing at a gestational age of less than 15 weeks were eligible. No specified informed consent was needed. Results: The study was conducted between September 2016 and October 2017. In total, we received 1,002 residual samples of 992 women. After applying in- and exclusion criteria we analyzed 684 samples. Mean gestational age of all included women was 10.3 weeks (SD 1.9). Of these women, 36 (5.3 %) tested positive for phosphatidylethanol, indicating alcohol consumption in the previous two weeks. Of women with a positive phosphatidylethanol test, 89 % (n = 32) did not express alcohol consumption to their obstetric care provider. Conclusions: One in nineteen women consumed alcohol during early pregnancy with a high percentage not reporting this use to their obstetric care provider. Questioning alcohol consumption by an obstetric care provider did not successfully identify (hazardous) alcohol consumption. Routine screening with phosphatidylethanol in maternal blood can be of added value to identify women who consume alcohol during pregnancy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number342
JournalBMC Pregnancy and Childbirth
Volume21
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2021

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