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Maternal health behaviours during pregnancy in an Irish obstetric population and their associations with socio-demographic and infant characteristics



To examine the prevalence and combined occurrence of peri-conceptional folic acid (FA) supplement use, smoking and alcohol consumption during pregnancy in a sample of women in Dublin, and determine the factors associated with these health behaviours.


A prospective observational study (2004–2006) involving the recruitment of 491 pregnant women from antenatal clinics in a Dublin maternity hospital, with postpartum follow-up of 450 eligible mothers. Data on FA use, maternal smoking and alcohol consumption patterns during pregnancy were collected from the antenatal patient-administered questionnaire, which was completed by participants, and returned to the investigator on the day of recruitment.


The median gestational age of women at recruitment was 36 weeks. A combined 24.2% of mothers commenced FA at the recommended time, avoided alcohol consumption and smoking during pregnancy. In all, 35.3% of mothers reported to consuming alcohol, 20.9% smoked during pregnancy and 44.4% commenced FA at the recommended time. Mothers <25 years were more likely to have not taken FA at the recommended time (adjusted odds ratio (aOR): 4.0, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.64–9.77) and were more likely to have smoked during pregnancy (aOR: 3.56, 95% CI: 1.32–9.57). Irish nationality positively predicted both alcohol consumption (aOR: 4.37, 95% CI: 1.88–10.15) and smoking (aOR: 10.92, 95% CI: 1.35–87.98) during pregnancy.


Educational efforts are still necessary to convince women of Irish nationality, in particular, of the adverse effects of smoking and alcohol consumption on fetal outcome. Women <25 years should be specifically targeted in smoking cessation and FA promotional campaigns.

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We are greatly indebted to the 491 mothers who participated in this study. A special thank you is extended to the clinical and administrative staff in the CWIUH for their invaluable support and practical help, particularly, during the study recruitment and follow-up phases. We confirm that this study was funded exclusively by the Dublin Institute of Technology, Dublin, Republic of Ireland.

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Correspondence to J M Kearney.

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Tarrant, R., Younger, K., Sheridan-Pereira, M. et al. Maternal health behaviours during pregnancy in an Irish obstetric population and their associations with socio-demographic and infant characteristics. Eur J Clin Nutr 65, 470–479 (2011).

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  • maternal health
  • pregnancy
  • cigarette smoking
  • alcohol consumption
  • folic acid
  • prenatal care

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