Partners Affect Pregnant Women’s Alcohol Use and Infant Development: Study
Partners Affect Pregnant Women’s Alcohol Use and Infant Development: Study | Photo credit: Pixabay
Washington: New research has found that partners of expectant mothers can have a direct impact on the likelihood that a pregnant woman will drink alcohol and feel depressed, which affects her baby’s development. The results of the study were published in the journal “Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research”. The study was led by a team of psychologists from the University of Rochester and other researchers from the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Collaborative Initiative (CIFASD). The study underscored the importance of involving partners in intervention and prevention efforts to help pregnant women avoid drinking alcohol. Prenatal exposure of a baby to alcohol carries the risk of potential lifelong problems, including premature birth, delayed infant development, and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).
“The results highlight how many factors influence alcohol use during pregnancy,” said lead author Carson Kautz-Turnbull, a third-year student in the Rochester Department of Psychology who is interested in intervention work on FASD and reaching underserved populations including racial minorities, rural populations and low income groups.
“The more we learn about these factors, the more we can reduce the stigma associated with alcohol use during pregnancy and help in a stimulating and meaningful way,” added Kautz-Turnbull.
The team followed 246 pregnant women at two sites in western Ukraine over time as part of CIFASD, an international consortium of researchers that researchers from Mt. Hope Family Center is a member of, which is funded by the NIH National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The team found that higher partner alcohol and tobacco consumption as well as lower relationship satisfaction for pregnant women increased their babies’ likelihood of prenatal alcohol exposure. Conversely, women who felt supported by their partner reported lower rates of depressive symptoms and were less likely to drink during pregnancy.
All study participants had a partner; most were married. During their first trimesters, women reported their relationship satisfaction, including the frequency of quarrels, happiness in the relationship and ease of talking to their partners, their partner’s substance use, and their socioeconomic status. In the third trimester, participants were asked about their own drinking habits and depressive symptoms. The researchers then assessed the mental and psychomotor development of infants around six months of age.
According to the team’s analysis, the depressive symptoms and alcohol use of pregnant women were directly correlated with their relationships with their partners and with the substance use of their partners. (Researchers asked about alcohol and tobacco use only.) Positive partner influences resulted in lower alcohol consumption in women in late pregnancy and fewer depressive symptoms. The results applied even when socioeconomic status, which is generally related to depression and alcohol use, was taken into account. Higher prenatal alcohol exposure resulted in lower mental and psychomotor development in infants, although maternal prenatal depression did not affect babies in the same way as alcohol use. This is why maternal health and pregnancy interventions are likely to be more effective when partners are included, with benefits for both mothers and babies, the team concludes.
Interventions aimed at partner’s substance use can also help reduce substance use in pregnant women, while improving relationship satisfaction, protecting them from depression, and stimulating infant development. In addition to Kautz-Turnbull, the study was co-authored by Christie Petrenko and Elizabeth Handley of Rochester, Claire Coles and Julie Kable of Emory University, Wladimir Wertelecki of the University of Southern Alabama, Lyubov Yevtushok of the centers Omni-Net in Ukraine, Natalya Zymak-Zakutnya from OMNI-Net for Children International Charitable Fund in Ukraine, Christina Chambers from University of California, San Diego, and CIFASD.