The Weekly Dose
August 13, 2020
Welcome to The Weekly Dose! Each week, we will review one scientific article, summarizing the research and providing key takeaways. Our goal in this endeavor is to make science understandable and accessible to all.
A study published this week in the journal American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology suggests that alcohol use in the early weeks of pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage. Participants included 5,353 women who, at the study's baseline, were either fewer than 12 weeks pregnant or intended to become pregnant. The authors reported that among the total sample, 2,662 women consumed some alcohol during the time that they were observed, and about 12% experienced spontaneous abortion (i.e., miscarriage or loss of pregnancy before 20 weeks of gestation). Additional statistical analysis was focused on comparing alcohol users and non-users on two related metrics: the risk of spontaneous abortion in a given week; and the additional risk of spontaneous abortion for each week of continued alcohol consumption. 
The results of the statistical analysis revealed that over the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, the risk of miscarriage increased weekly, rising modestly in the first 5 weeks, then accelerating over the next 4 weeks, and peaking at 9 weeks of gestation, where women who consumed alcohol were more than 4 times as likely to miscarry as those who did not consume alcohol. On average, the additional weekly risk of miscarriage associated with continued alcohol consumption was 8%, and was not significantly lower for participants who consumed fewer than the average number of drinks.

Figure 2. Risk of spontaneous abortion by gestational week with alcohol exposure (n=5353)
Key Takeaways: 

  • Alcohol use during any part of the first 12 weeks of pregnancy is risky, however alcohol consumption between 5 and 10 weeks of gestation is particularly so. The riskiest period is between weeks 7 and 9, when using alcohol at a minimum triples the risk of spontaneous abortion.
  • How long a pregnant woman continues to drink is also relevant to miscarrying. The risk of spontaneous abortion accumulates with sustained alcohol use.
  • Cessation of alcohol use after pregnancy detection is likely to reduce the risk of spontaneous abortion. 

Who is VSC?

Vital Statistics Consulting (VSC) is a healthcare consultancy that specializes in the evaluation of policies and programs and provides independent, rigorous, innovative analysis to support data-driven recommendations that improve healthcare quality and organizational efficiency.
What's New at VSC?
Our firm is pleased that Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and John Cornyn (R-TX) have proposed a new bill that would add $400 million to the Federal Communications Commission’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program. The initial allocation of $200 million to this program, via the CARES Act, was quickly exhausted. This expansion will allow many qualified healthcare organizations, including some of VSC’s clients, to convert health and behavioral services delivery from in-person to telehealth, reducing the risk of COVID-19 spread.

Employee Spotlight
Each week, The Weekly Dose will introduce readers to one of our team members.

This week, VSC’s Director of Strategic Partnerships, Emma Hersh, MPA, is in the “spotlight.” We have asked her three questions, the answers to which reveal some of her professional and personal inspiration for working in the field of health science. 

Which people and/or events influenced your decision to work in this field?

While a lawyer by education and practice, my father has spent much of his life focused on the science and medical fields – so much so that I have woken up almost every morning to at least one email summarizing an interesting journal article that he’d read the prior evening. Thus, despite my own shortcomings when it came to all science classes(!), I gained a deep appreciation for and interest in the scientific sector. Upon meeting Drs. Steier and Gallo in 2018, it became evident that there was an exciting opportunity to lend my skills in communication and partnership building to support the tremendous work that they lead in providing scientific evaluation, validation, and translation services.

What was the answer you gave people as a child when asked what you want to be when you grow up? 

I spent most of my childhood – and into my early college career – aspiring to be a sports journalist or writer. While I ultimately shifted focus in college and beyond, my love for sports (DC-based teams and the San Antonio Spurs) never abated!

What advice would you give yourself 3 years ago? 3 years from now?  

The advice that I would give myself three years ago is likely the same as what I need to hold onto now and three years from now: find peace in the unknown, follow your gut, and be kind to yourself.
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