Despite greater awareness of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, there has not been similar attention paid to research regarding effective strategies for prevention.
Participants were 12 females who had attended an initial antenatal care visit within the previous two years. They participated in semi-structured interviews about their experiences of the health messages they recalled receiving during their first antenatal care visit, with emphasis on messages relating to alcohol consumption.
Data were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis which identified two superordinate themes: (1) Messages Received About Alcohol Consumption, and (2) Ways of Interpreting Messages Relating to Alcohol Consumption.
Messages received by participants about alcohol consumption were generally consistent with national guidelines, stating that there is no safe level during pregnancy. Women interpreted these messages, however, within a broader, personal and socio-cultural context.
This leads to women’s choices about alcohol consumption being informed by their individual understanding of risk. To facilitate open discussions about sensitive topics such as alcohol consumption, participants expressed a preference for antenatal support that is tailored to their individual needs.
Strategies to prevent fetal alcohol spectrum disorder need to include messages encouraging women to abstain during pregnancy, whilst at the same time, providing the type of individualised antenatal care that best enables this to be accomplished.