Effect of Hazardous Alcohol Use During Pregnancy on Growth Outcomes at Birth: Findings from a South African Cohort Study

Bronwyn Myers, Nastassja Koen, Kirsten A. Donald, Raymond T. Nhapi, Lesley Workman, Whitney Barnett, Nadia Hoffman, Sheri Koopowitz, Heather J. Zar, Dan J. Stein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Background: Cohort studies have noted associations between hazardous alcohol use during pregnancy and infant growth outcomes, but many have not controlled for potential psychosocial confounders. To assess the unique contribution of hazardous alcohol use, we examined its effect on infant growth outcomes while controlling for maternal psychosocial stressors and hazardous tobacco and drug use in a cohort of 986 pregnant South African women enrolled into the Drakenstein Child Health Study between 2012 and 2015. Methods: Data on psychosocial stressors and maternal risk behaviors were collected between 28 and 32 weeks of gestation. Participants were categorized as hazardous alcohol users if they obtained moderate or high scores (>10) on the Alcohol, Smoking and Substance Involvement Screening Test at this assessment or retrospectively reported drinking at least 2 drinks weekly during any trimester of pregnancy. Infant growth outcomes were recorded at delivery. Multivariable regression models examined correlates of hazardous alcohol use and associations between hazardous alcohol use and birth outcomes. Results: Overall, 13% of mothers reported hazardous alcohol use. Recent exposure to intimate partner violence (adjusted odds ratio (aOR) = 2.08; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.37, 3.18) and hazardous tobacco use (aOR = 5.03; 95% CI: 2.97, 8.52) were significant correlates of hazardous alcohol use. After controlling for potential psychosocial confounders, hazardous alcohol use remained associated with lower infant weight-for-age (B = −0.35, 95% CI: −0.56, −0.14), height-for-age (B = −0.46, 95% CI: −0.76, −0.17), and head-circumference-for-age z-scores (B = −0.43, 95% CI: −0.69, −0.17). Conclusions: Interventions to reduce hazardous alcohol use among pregnant women in South Africa are needed to prevent alcohol-related infant growth restrictions. As these growth deficits may lead to neurodevelopmental consequences, it is critical to identify alcohol-related growth restrictions at birth and link exposed infants to early interventions for neurodevelopment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)369-377
Number of pages9
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Antenatal Alcohol Exposure
  • Cohort
  • Infant Growth Outcomes
  • South Africa


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