Belfast Telegraph

Lifestyle warning to pregnant women

Pregnant women are more likely to drink if they are better educated, a report has found.

But expectant mothers are significantly more likely to smoke during pregnancy if they have less qualifications, the Government-funded study revealed.

Children's Minister Barry Andrews said the figures gave cause for concern and could prompt renewed campaigns on the dangers associated with drinking and smoking during pregnancy.

"There are existing campaigns in this regard, run by the Department of Health and the Health Service Executive, trying to highlight the dangers of drinking and smoking in pregnancy," he said.

"The incidence of it is clearly a concern as it arises from this report. It has to inform policy, so it might be a case of simply more of the same (campaigns)."

Researchers from Trinity College Dublin and the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) tracked the lives of 11,100 nine-month-old infants and their families for the Growing Up in Ireland study.

They found that almost one in five mothers smoke or drink alcohol at some stage during their pregnancy. When it came to drinking, the figure rose to 26% - or just more than a quarter - of third-level graduates compared to 15% of mothers who left school before the Leaving Certificate.

Four in 10 mothers among the least well educated said they had smoked at some stage during their pregnancy compared to just 6% of those with a degree-level qualification.

One of the study's authors, Professor James Williams of the ESRI, suggested uncertainty about the effects of moderate drinking was behind the higher incidence of better-educated women taking alcohol during pregnancy. "The debate around drinking and pregnancy is much more ambiguous, much less certain than around smoking," he said.

The report also found: Seven in 10 mothers polled were married while a further 15% were living with a partner; some 57% of babies were breastfed at some stage, with Irish-born mothers much less likely to breastfeed than mothers born elsewhere; one in 10 mothers had no intention of getting pregnant; some 38% of the children were in some form of childcare.

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