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Empowering health professionals to support pregnant women through evidence-based care

(Estimated reading time: 2 minutes)

The guidance and care provided by health professionals during pregnancy is paramount. New research from Hunter New England Local Health District and the University of Newcastle identifies and tests strategies designed to support maternity services in providing care to pregnant women around alcohol consumption in pregnancy.

Dr Emma Doherty, Research Fellow from Hunter New England Local Health District and the University of Newcastle, explains how her research on effective implementation strategies allows health professionals to better support pregnant women in antenatal visits.


What information about alcohol consumption are pregnant women provided?

The evidence is clear that there is no safe amount of alcohol to drink at any time during pregnancy. Part of Dr Doherty’s teams' research seeks to find out if this information is clearly shared with pregnant women during antenatal visits.

“A survey conducted with 1,400 pregnant women found that although 99% wanted to receive this care from their maternity services, only a third actually did receive information in their first antenatal visit and less than 5% received information in subsequent antenatal visits.”

The research found that while the majority of pregnant women want to know about alcohol consumption in pregnancy, health professionals are not always providing this care.

Why is alcohol consumption information not always provided?

The research team identified several barriers that impact the care that health professionals can provide in antenatal visits. These barriers included forgetting to provide care, a lack of knowledge about guidelines, lack of clinic resources, and the perception that women may not find this care acceptable.

A trial including five maternity services was conducted to test whether implementation strategies could improve the care that health professionals provide around alcohol consumption in pregnancy. These strategies targeted the identified barriers and included:

  • Adding reminders to electrical medical systems to prompt care around alcohol consumption in pregnancy during the visit;
  • Holding interactive, educational training sessions that allow health professionals to build their knowledge, skills, and confidence in delivering this care; and
  • Providing resource packs that health professionals could use to support their discussions around alcohol with pregnant women.

A survey conducted with women attending these maternity services found that these strategies significantly increased the proportion of pregnant women receiving evidence-based care for alcohol consumption at both initial and subsequent antenatal visits.

What does this mean for health professionals?

The research found that maternity services looking to improve their practices need to first consider the barriers faced by health professionals in delivering care to pregnant women. Once these barriers have been identified, appropriate strategies can be designed to better support the health professionals. Ultimately, this will enable women to have access to evidence-based care for alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

More information

To find out more about the role health professionals have in supporting pregnant women in their alcohol consumption and the results of the trial, you can read the publication here.