U.S. Latinas At Risk for Drinking During Pregnancy

Debunking common wisdom, study finds Hispanic women as likely to drink as other groups

TUESDAY, Nov. 22, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Conventional wisdom has long suggested that low-income Hispanic women are less likely to drink during pregnancy than U.S. women from other backgrounds. But a new study finds that's not the case.

The University of California, San Diego study found that these women drank similar amounts of alcohol in the three months before they know they're pregnant (the periconceptional period) as women in other racial/ethnic groups.

The finding, from a study of 100 pregnant low-income Hispanic women in San Diego County, appears in the November issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

"Traditionally held cultural values that discourage women from drinking alcohol may change when women, such as Latinas, emigrate to the U.S.," study corresponding author Christina D. Chambers, an assistant professor of pediatrics and family and preventive medicine at the University of California, San Diego, said in a prepared statement.

"Furthermore, due to cultural, educational or language barriers, low-income Latinas may be less likely to admit to alcohol use and/or have less accurate awareness of the risks of drinking during pregnancy," Chambers said.

"We found that 43 percent of pregnant Latinas in our sample reported some alcohol consumption in the three months before recognizing they were pregnant, and that 20 percent of the pregnant Latinas reported at least one binge episode of four or more standard drinks during that same time period. These figures are similar to many other race/ethnic groups in the U.S.," Chambers said.

"For the first time, we have a systematic analysis of drinking behavior in Latina women," Mary J. O'Connor, a professor in the department of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, said in a prepared statement.

"The typical myth in the past is that Latina women don't drink, but in fact, this is a population that is at risk, and we need to provide this population with the supports that they need to decrease their drinking during pregnancy," O'Connor said.

More information

The March of Dimes has more about drinking and pregnancy.

SOURCES: Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, news release, Nov. 14, 2005
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