Norwegian women drink least while pregnant, British women drink most

A study among over 7000 women in 11 European countries shows the proportion of women in Europe who drink alcohol when they know they are pregnant is lowest in Norway and highest in the UK.

This is the first study that compares alcohol consumption during pregnancy across 11 European countries. The study uses the same method for collecting data, thereby making the results comparable between the countries.

On average, 16% of women in the 11 European countries reported that they drank alcohol after they knew that they were pregnant.

The countries with the highest proportion of women who reported alcohol consumption during pregnancy were the UK (28.5 %), Russia (26.5 %) and Switzerland (20.9 %).
The countries with the lowest proportion of women who reported  alcohol consumption were Norway (4.1 %), Sweden (7.2 %) and Poland (9.7 %).
Women who reported alcohol consumption during pregnancy were more likely to be older, more highly educated, in employment, and had smoked before pregnancy than women who did not report this consumption.

Why do so few women in Norway drink during pregnancy compared to the UK?
Although the British population in general drink more than Norwegians (ref: Report: Drugs in Norway in 2016, FIG. 2.6.2, p. 30), the study found that countries with a comparable drinking culture to the UK – like Poland and France – had relatively low proportions of women drinking during pregnancy.  Therefore, the drinking culture in the overall population may not necessarily apply to those who are pregnant.

“Differences in pregnant women’s drinking behaviour between countries can have many explanations besides variations in willingness of women to provide information about their alcohol consumption during pregnancy. There could be differences in national guidelines or educational campaigns about drinking during pregnancy, differences in prenatal care and attitudes towards alcohol use in pregnancy, or a combination of all these factors,” saysProfessor Hedvig Nordeng from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, who is the principal investigator of the study in Norway.

The study consisted of 7905 women, 53 % were pregnant, and 46 % were new mothers (with a child up to one-year-old).

The countries included were Croatia, Finland, France, Italy, Norway, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.

Source: Norwegian Institute of Public Health