A harmonized analysis of five Canadian pregnancy cohort studies: exploring the characteristics and pregnancy outcomes associated with prenatal alcohol exposure

Abstract Background As a teratogen, alcohol exposure during pregnancy can impact fetal development and result in adverse birth outcomes. Despite the clinical and social importance of prenatal alcohol use, limited routinely collected information or epidemiological data exists in Canada. The aim of this study was to pool data from multiple Canadian cohort studies to identify sociodemographic characteristics before and during pregnancy that were associated with alcohol consumption during pregnancy and to assess the impact of different patterns of alcohol use on birth outcomes. Methods We harmonized information collected (e.g., pregnant women’s alcohol intake, infants' gestational age and birth weight) from five Canadian pregnancy cohort studies to consolidate a large sample (n = 11,448). Risk factors for any alcohol use during pregnancy, including any alcohol use prior to pregnancy recognition, and binge drinking, were estimated using binomial regressions including fixed effects of pregnancy cohort membership and multiple maternal risk factors. Impacts of alcohol use during pregnancy on birth outcomes (preterm birth and low birth weight for gestational) were also estimated using binomial regression models. Results In analyses adjusting for multiple risk factors, women’s alcohol use during pregnancy, both any use and any binge drinking, was associated with drinking prior to pregnancy, smoking during pregnancy, and white ethnicity. Higher income level was associated with any drinking during pregnancy. Neither drinking during pregnancy nor binge drinking during pregnancy was significantly associated with preterm delivery or low birth weight for gestational age in our sample. Conclusions Pooling data across pregnancy cohort studies allowed us to create a large sample of Canadian women and investigate the risk factors for alcohol consumption during pregnancy. We suggest that future pregnancy and birth cohorts should always include questions related to the frequency and amount of alcohol consumed before and during pregnancy that are prospectively harmonized to support data reusability and collaborative research.
BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. 2023 Feb 28;23(1):128