Did you know one in two women drink alcohol before being aware of their pregnancy and one in seven continue to drink after knowledge of their pregnancy, according to survey data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare?
Health professionals play an important role in providing clear and accurate information and advice about how to have a healthy pregnancy.
As one of the most trusted sources of health information for women, health professionals are vital in communicating the updated National Health and Medical Research Council’s (NHMRC) Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol (Alcohol Guidelines), which advise:
- Women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy should not drink alcohol.
- For women who are breastfeeding, not drinking alcohol is safest for their baby.
Conversations about alcohol with women who are pregnant, or trying to conceive, are important. This is because any alcohol consumed passes directly to the developing baby, which creates a range of increased risks, including:
- premature birth
- low birth weight
- damage to the baby’s developing brain, body and organs
- fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).
FASD is a lifelong disability caused by alcohol exposure during pregnancy. People with FASD can experience challenges such as:
- physical and emotional developmental delay
- impaired speech and language development
- learning problems, such as issues with memory and attention
- difficulty controlling behaviour.
Some women may find it difficult to stop drinking alcohol or may be alcohol dependent. It’s important to provide reassurance that help is available and to reinforce the benefits of stopping drinking at any stage during pregnancy to minimise further risk to both the mother and baby.
Some women may need ongoing medical support, because to stop suddenly can be dangerous for both mother and baby. This could include referral to specialist antenatal care, and alcohol and other drug treatment by a multidisciplinary team.
As part of the Every Moment Matters campaign, FARE has collaborated with a range of health professionals to design and develop resources and information about alcohol, pregnancy, breastfeeding and FASD. These include:
- guides on alcohol and pregnancy, FASD, and alcohol and breastfeeding
- evidence summaries on alcohol and pregnancy, and alcohol and breastfeeding
- a guide on using the AUDIT-C for assessment of alcohol use in pregnancy
- evidence-based FAQs.
This year we will also launch an accredited eLearning course covering the latest evidence about the risks of drinking alcohol during pregnancy and when trying to conceive, and the impact of prenatal alcohol exposure.
The course outlines the validated AUDIT-C tool to assess alcohol use, and the 5As framework for confidently providing advice consistent with the Alcohol Guidelines.
The core activity can be completed in 30–45 minutes and includes video case studies. Shorter, optional activities include:
- A summary of evidence on pregnancy and alcohol.
- About FASD.
- Brief intervention and motivational interviewing.
- About breastfeeding and alcohol.