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Preventing FASD - Overview

FASD now has more recognition in Australia as an important, but preventable disorder. Prevention can be difficult and in the case of alcohol use in pregnancy a confronting issue. FASD has causes that are both biological and social. There are many misconceptions about why women may continue to drink alcohol during pregnancy, how they should look and act.

Consideration of the diverse range of factors that influence or impact alcohol use

Health professionals, people working in the health promotion space and members of the general public, need to consider the diverse range of factors that influence or impact alcohol use or misuse during pregnancy. These include:

  • lack of knowledge about the effects of alcohol on the fetus
  • having a partner or friend who drinks
  • lack of support from partner, friends and family
  • living in a family or community tolerant of heavy drinking
  • social isolation & living in remote communities
  • poverty
  • unemployment
  • stress, domestic violence, loneliness which may result in self-medicating
  • alcohol and other drug dependency


While poverty and unemployment may be contributing to drinking in some populations, Australian research has found that in mainstream public antenatal care, higher income and tertiary educated women were 2-4 times more likely to drink alcohol throughout pregnancy than women with secondary school education.

Risk of harm

While poverty and unemployment may be contributing to drinking in some populations, Australian research has found that in mainstream public antenatal care, higher income and tertiary educated women were 2-4 times more likely to drink alcohol throughout pregnancy than women with only secondary school education. The risk of harm from alcohol is hard to predict. Factors such as:

  • the mother’s age
  • general health
  • medical conditions
  • genetics
  • stress
  • other drug use and smoking
  • body composition

can influence blood alcohol levels and hence the risk of harm to the baby.  

 

Other contributing factors

Other components that create an environment that contributes to risky drinking include:
•alcohol supply and promotion
•pricing
•liquor outlets that do not adhere to legislation that prohibits serving alcohol to intoxicated customers

Prevention must be based on an understanding of these contributing factors that may lead to alcohol use during pregnancy. A collaborative community and whole of government approach is required.

Page last updated 14 May 2019