Alcohol consumption during pregnancy is a major public health problem linked to adverse pregnancy outcomes such as preventable alcohol-related developmental disability fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).1,2 It is estimated that globally around 9.8% women consume alcohol during pregnancy, with about 14.6 per 10,000 people estimated to be affected by FAS.3 In Zambia, it is estimated that 49.3% of the population above age 15 indulge in heavy drinking (five or more drinks) on at least one occasion in the past 30 days (60.1% for men and 24.8% for women)4, and problem drinking is greater among teen girls than teen boys.5,6 Studies conducted in Zambia and the Republic of South Africa (RSA) found misperceptions about alcohol use during pregnancy.7,8
Alcohol use during pregnancy has been found to be correlated with many negative health outcomes for the neonate (e.g., physical and cognitive defects9 and neurodevelopmental abnormalities),10 and for the mother (e.g., decreased production of breast milk).11,12 Therefore, screening, proper counselling and referral to treatment would be of great significance.
A vast literature in particular that conducted in RSA has shown age at onset, tobacco use, partner violence, urban living, current use and having a male partner or extended family member who drinks alcohol13,14 and depression15 as risk factors for alcohol use during pregnancy. Protective factors of alcohol use while pregnant include lower gravidity and parity, education and income. These studies combined demonstrate the need for early detection strategies for prevention of alcohol use before and during pregnancy. However, in Zambia, alcohol use and associated risk factors have not been investigated, and screening in prenatal care is nonexistent. Here, I examined the prevalence of alcohol use in pregnant women attending prenatal care at two clinics in Lusaka, Zambia.