Depression, Alcohol Use Linked in Pregnant Women


Women who are depressed during their pregnancy are more likely to binge drink, a finding that could have implications for programs aimed at preventing fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh's Western Psychiatric Institute, led by Cynthia Larkin, Ph.D., found that 21 percent of depressed women had at least one episode where they consumed four or more alcoholic drinks after learning that they were pregnant. Only 5 percent of non-depressed women reported having a similar binge-drinking episode.

The findings were especially telling since the binge drinking rates did not vary significantly between depressed and non-depressed women during the year prior to conception, or during the period between conception and pregnancy recognition.

"Depression is an important correlate of binge drinking during early pregnancy," the researchers concluded. "Depression screening for pregnant women, and treatment when needed, could be a useful adjunct to FAS/FAE intervention efforts."

The study was based on preliminary data from the Healthy Outcomes from Prenatal Education (HOPE) project. The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism, held June 28-July 3 in San Francisco.

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