Alcohol consumption in pregnancy and its implications for breastfeeding
Current advice to women in Ireland is to abstain from alcohol when pregnant or breastfeeding. This study aims to establish whether women embrace this advice when pregnant and if there is a need for additional midwifery-led education in relation to alcohol consumption and breastfeeding.
A cohort study of 907 women who booked for antenatal care and to give birth in a large maternity hospital in Dublin, was undertaken from 2010–2011. Eligible women completed an interview at the first visit, a postal questionnaire during the third trimester of pregnancy, and were followed-up until the birth and discharge.
During pregnancy women who planned to exclusively breastfeed continued to consume alcohol at a rate similar to those who did not plan to breastfeed (30.2% compared with 27.5%; (OR 1.13; 95% CI; 0.84–1.53). Consuming alcohol was associated with older maternal age, Irish nationality and private health care. Intention to exclusively breastfeed was associated with socioeconomic group, non-Irish nationality and private health care. The findings at follow-up were similar to the first set of results with almost a third of women who consumed alcohol in pregnancy exclusively breastfeeding at the time of hospital discharge; (OR 1.28; 95% CI, 0.95–1.73)
Many women who plan to breastfeed continue to consume alcohol in pregnancy despite national and international guidelines that recommend abstention. There may be opportunities in the antenatal period to influence behavioural change in relation to breastfeeding and alcohol consumption.
Lifestyle choices before and during pregnancy can have a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of both a woman and her unborn child (O'Keeffe et al, 2013). Women are often advised by health professionals to make positive lifestyle modifications during the peri-conceptional, antenatal and postnatal period. These healthy lifestyle choices are encouraged to optimise infant health outcomes and to enhance the health of the new mother (Tarrant et al, 2011; Murphy et al, 2014). Health promotion is one of a midwife's key roles. As health professionals, midwives are in a powerful position to influence women's lifestyle behaviours and infant feeding decision making during pregnancy. Unfortunately, lifestyle choices such as alcohol consumption are often only addressed at the initial booking visit and at no further time point during pregnancy, despite the implications for breastfeeding.
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