Alcohol Use Trajectories Before and After Pregnancy Among Adolescent and Young Adult Mothers

Irene Tung, Tammy Chung, Robert T. Krafty, Kate Keenan, Alison E. Hipwell

Publication Date: 07/23/2020

Background: Moderate to heavy alcohol use during pregnancy (≥3 drinks/occasion) is linked to a range of adverse offspring outcomes. Prior studies suggest that adolescent and young adult mothers may be particularly vulnerable to these risky drinking behaviors during and after pregnancy. This study used latent class growth analysis (LCGA) to examine changes in risky drinking from prepregnancy to postpregnancy and identified prepregnancy predictors representing cognitive and social factors to inform prevention. Methods: Participants included 432 adolescent and young adult mothers (aged 13 to 24; 78% Black) assessed annually since childhood in the Pittsburgh Girls Study. Participants prospectively reported frequency of risky drinking (≥3 drinks/occasion) in the year of pregnancy and 2 years before and after pregnancy, as well as social–cognitive risk factors for drinking (alcohol expectancies, drinking motives, caregiver, and peer alcohol use). Results: Approximately 11% of young mothers in this community-based sample engaged in risky drinking at least once a month during the year of pregnancy, with greater frequency observed for young adult (vs. adolescent) mothers. LCGA revealed 4 risky drinking trajectories across the perinatal period, including 3 relatively stable trajectories (low, moderate, and high frequency) and 1 distinct trajectory (“postpartum initiators”) characterized by increased risky drinking post-childbirth. Peer alcohol use during and after pregnancy distinguished higher risk from lower risk trajectories, controlling for age, race, and age of drinking onset. Exposure to caregiver alcohol use and prepregnancy coping motives for drinking also elevated risk, but only for mothers who became pregnant in early adulthood (vs. adolescence). Conclusions: Adolescent and young adult mothers show heterogeneous risky drinking trajectories from prepregnancy to postpregnancy. Pregnant women in the transitional age of early adulthood who report exposure to caregiver alcohol use, more friends who drink, and coping motives for drinking may have elevated risk for moderate–heavy drinking during the perinatal period and may benefit from targeted intervention…