Alcohol consumption in women of childbearing age has maintained around 55% worldwide in the last 20 years, including roughly 11% of pregnant women who reported consuming alcohol in the previous month. Other research has found that 30% of women admit consuming alcohol at some point during pregnancy, and 8% report having had more than four drinks on one occasion.
Although most women reduce their consumption once they find out they are expecting, many of them do not know about the pregnancy before the fourth or sixth week of gestation and continue drinking during that period. Although experts advice women to avoid alcohol during pregnancy or while trying to conceive, drinking continues to be reported by women perhaps due to persistent confusion about the effects of alcohol on fetal development.
Despite its entirely preventable nature, prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) remains the leading cause of congenital abnormalities, intellectual impairment, and other developmental problems in children. Complications due to maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy affect families and children from all ethnic and economic backgrounds.
The most direct and obvious way to prevent FASDs is to eradicate alcohol consumption in women who are either pregnant, planning a pregnancy or who could become pregnant. However, despite health recommendations, the rates of alcohol consumption of women of childbearing age have remained stable. In addition, inconsistent information given to women and disputes about what is the safe amount of alcohol women should consume during pregnancy contribute to confusion. A clear consensus based on a systematic review of research on PAE is strongly needed, and should guide the recommendations and practice of professionals.
The Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development has produced a resource titled ‘Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders’, check it out!