Low-income pregnant Latinas drink despite universal alcohol-warning messages

  • Language and cultural differences may discourage some women from drinking alcohol, but may also present a barrier for others to understand the risks of drinking during pregnancy.
  • Researchers have found that low-income pregnant Latinas drink similar amounts of alcohol during the three months before recognition of a pregnancy as do other racial/ethnic groups.

Although numerous public-information campaigns have addressed the dangers of drinking during pregnancy, language and cultural differences may present a barrier for some to understanding those risks. A study in the November issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research looks at alcohol consumption among low-income pregnant Latinas during the "periconceptional" period (three months before recognition of the pregnancy). Results indicate that, contrary to stereotypical beliefs, this group is just as much at risk for early-pregnancy drinking and related effects as other racial/ethnic groups in the U.S.

"Traditionally held cultural values that discourage women from drinking alcohol may change when women, such as Latinas, emigrate to the U.S.," said Christina D. Chambers, assistant professor of pediatrics and family and preventive medicine at the University of California, San Diego and corresponding author for the study. "Furthermore, due to cultural, educational, or language barriers, low-income Latinas may be less likely to admit to alcohol use and/or have less accurate awareness of the risks of drinking during pregnancy."

"For the first time, we have a systematic analysis of drinking behavior in Latina women," said Mary J. O'Connor, a professor in the department of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles as well as director of the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Clinic at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. "The typical myth in the past is that Latina women don't drink, but in fact, this


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