Tendencies toward low mood, depression, and anxiety may drive as many as one in 10 women in Norway to drink during pregnancy.

Although most women had stopped binge drinking by their second semester, 10 percent continued to drink lightly well into their pregnancies, researchers in Norway found in a recent study. During the first trimester, 12 percent of women engaged in binge drinking, a rate that plummeted to 0.5 percent during the second trimester.

Exploring underlying reasons for the drinking among pregnant women, Kim Stene-Larsen and his colleagues, from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Oslo, analyzed data from more than 66,000 couples who took part in the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study. As part of that longitudinal look at Norwegian life, pregnant mothers answered survey questions related to mood and alcohol use at 17 and 30 weeks of gestation.

Among women with low mood, light drinking increased during the first and second trimesters by 27 percent and 28 percent, respectively, for every unit measurement of “maternal negative affectivity.” Binge drinking rates rose 55 percent and 114 percent, respectively, among such women in their first and second trimesters.

"Our findings clearly show a link between a mother’s negative emotions, such as depression and anxiety, and light alcohol use and binge drinking during pregnancy,” Stene-Larsen told reporters. “Further study is needed to understand why women continue to drink alcohol while pregnant despite health warnings.”

A previous study shows that one-quarter to half of women around the world drink alcohol during pregnancy, with higher drinking rates among those with lower incomes, a history of drinking, and partners who drink. The use of intoxicants such as alcohol has also been linked to lower moods, neuroticism, and stress.

Source: Stene-Larsen K, Torgersen L, Strandberg-Larsen K, Norman PT, Vollrath ME. Impact Of Maternal Negative Affectivity On Light Alcohol Use And Binge Drinking During Pregnancy. Acta Obstetricia Et Gynecologica Scandinavica. 2013.