BACKGROUND: It has been suggested that even mild exposure to alcohol, caffeine, smoking, and poor diet may have adverse long-term neurodevelopmental effects. In addition, there is evidence that timing of high exposures (e.g. binge drinking) can have particularly negative effects. This paper describes the design and implementation of The Lifestyle During Pregnancy Study addressing major methodological challenges for studies in this field. The study examines the effects of lifestyle during pregnancy on offspring neurodevelopment. METHODS: In 2003, we initiated a prospective follow-up of 1750 mother-child pairs, sampled on the basis of maternal alcohol drinking patterns from The Danish National Birth Cohort (DNBC), a study of 101,042 pregnancies enrolled 1997-2003. Data collection in the DNBC involved four prenatal and postnatal maternal interviews, providing detailed information on maternal alcohol drinking patterns before and during pregnancy, caffeine intake, smoking, diet, and other lifestyle, medical, and sociodemographic factors. RESULTS: At the age of 5 years, the children and their mothers participated in a comprehensive assessment of neurobehavioural development focusing on global cognition, specific cognitive functions, and behaviour. Two new tests assessing attention and speed of information processing among children were developed, and data on important potential confounders such as maternal intelligence quotient, vision, and hearing abilities were collected. Efforts were made to standardise procedures and obtain high inter-rater reliability. CONCLUSIONS: We expect that the study will illuminate the significance or lack of significance of maternal lifestyle during pregnancy and contribute to better understanding the effects of alcohol drinking during pregnancy at low to moderate consumption levels.
Keywords: Alcohol Drinking; Child Behavior Disorders; Child Development; Child, Preschool; Cognition Disorders; Cohort Studies; Female; Follow-Up Studies; Food Habits; Humans; Intelligence; Life Style; Maternal Exposure; Pregnancy; Psychomotor Performance; Questionnaires; Smoking