With many organizations and communities developing awareness materials from seminars and training to social media activities throughout the year, it is important to be mindful of the message and language used in these campaigns.
In the past decade, awareness about FASD has increased and in many communities the majority of women are aware that alcohol consumption can cause harm during pregnancy. However, new research and ongoing media coverage continue to raise questions about whether any alcohol use during pregnancy is okay or whether risk remains the same throughout pregnancy. And many people know very little about FASD in general.
In addition to addressing this type of ambiguity, there are a number of other types of messages that have been shown to be helpful, informative and supportive. Depending on who your audience is (see the infographic below about some different audiences you could consider), some of the other issues to consider in developing FASD prevention messages include:
- Make sure that messages are balanced and informative. Indistinct or ambiguous messages about the risks of alcohol use during pregnancy should be avoided. Messages like “Think before you drink” or “Alcohol can harm your unborn baby” can be perceived as threatening without helping women place risk into context.
- Avoid focusing on encouraging women to stop drinking for their baby or suggesting that women who don’t stop drinking are uncaring or irresponsible. This includes messages like “When you drink during pregnancy so does your baby” or messages written on top of pregnant bellies saying “Hey, I’m in here!” Lessons from the tobacco and pregnancy field indicate that these messages are not effective and can be perceived as shaming and blaming women who are unable to stop drinking during pregnancy due to problems with alcohol dependence.
- The message that “Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is 100% preventable” is controversial as alcohol use often happens before a woman recognizes that she is pregnant or can be tied to other serious health and social issues such as poverty and experiences of violence.
- Don’t forget that preventing pregnancy by supporting accessible and safe contraception is an excellent FASD prevention strategy – it’s not always necessary to focus on alcohol use. For example, a message could say something like “Alcohol and pregnancy don’t mix. If you drink alcohol and are sexually active, make sure you use effective contraception.