Assessing the risk of fetal alcohol syndrome: Understanding substance use among pregnant women

Laurie L. Meschke, Joyce A. Holl, Sara Messelt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Fetal alcohol exposure is a common cause of birth defects and developmental disorders. As many as 1 in 100 children in the United States are believed to be affected by fetal alcohol exposure. Characteristics of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) include abnormal facial features, growth impairment, problems with learning, memory, attention span, problem solving, speech, and hearing. FAS is 100% preventable. Preliminary data from 1704 pregnant women in Minnesota were assessed: substance use during pregnancy, risk factors related to substance use during pregnancy, and how substance use among pregnant women varies across the state. Of the sample, 19.6% of the women were calculated to have drunk alcohol while pregnant. Nondrinkers were more likely to be married and unemployed than drinkers. The drinkers reported significantly higher levels of depressed mood and greater number of problems with alcohol than their abstaining counterparts. Abstainers reported a greater number of pregnancies and initiated their first prenatal visit earlier than the drinkers. Significant differences in prenatal substance use and related factors also emerged by geographic region in Minnesota. Findings are discussed in relation to prevention and policy efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)667-674
Number of pages8
JournalNeurotoxicology and Teratology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2003

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by 5KD1SP09199- 01, 02, 03 from the Centers for Substance Abuse Prevention; Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Alcohol use
  • Four-state FAS consortium
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal alcohol use


Dive into the research topics of 'Assessing the risk of fetal alcohol syndrome: Understanding substance use among pregnant women'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this