Research: The Potential for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Prevention of a Harmonized Approach to Data Collection about Alcohol Use in Pregnancy Cohort Studies

Nancy PooleRose A. SchmidtAlan Bocking, ,Julie Bergeron and Isabel Fortier 

Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 201916(11), 2019;
Received: 15 April 2019 / Revised: 24 May 2019 / Accepted: 5 June 2019 / Published: 6 June 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD))


Prenatal alcohol exposure is a leading cause of disability, and a major public health concern in Canada. There are well-documented barriers for women and for service providers related to asking about alcohol use in pregnancy.

Confidential research is important for learning about alcohol use before, during and after pregnancy, in order to inform fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) prevention strategies. The Research Advancement through Cohort Cataloguing and Harmonization (ReACH) initiative provides a unique opportunity to leverage the integration of the Canadian pregnancy and birth cohort information regarding women’s drinking during pregnancy.
In this paper, we identify: The data that can be collected using formal validated alcohol screening tools; the data currently collected through Canadian provincial/territorial perinatal surveillance efforts; and the data currently collected in the research context from 12 pregnancy cohorts in the ReACH Catalogue.
We use these findings to make recommendations for data collection about women’s alcohol use by future pregnancy cohorts, related to the frequency and quantity of alcohol consumed, the number of drinks consumed on an occasion, any alcohol consumption before pregnancy, changes in use since pregnancy recognition, and the quit date.
Leveraging the development of a Canadian standard to measure alcohol consumption is essential to facilitate harmonization and co-analysis of data across cohorts, to obtain more accurate data on women’s alcohol use and also to inform FASD prevention strategies.

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