Supportive alcohol policy as a key element of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder prevention

Lindsay Wolfson and Nancy Poole, Women’s HealthVolume 19: 1–10
DOI: 10.1177/17455057231151838

In Canada, a Four-Part Model of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Prevention has been developed that describes a continuum of multi-sectoral efforts, including broad awareness campaigns, safe and respectful conversations around pregnancy and alcohol use, and holistic and wraparound support services for pregnant and postpartum women with alcohol, and other health and social concerns. Supportive alcohol policy is at the centre of the four mutually reinforcing levels of prevention.

The purpose of this narrative review is to describe alcohol policies related to specific levels of FASD prevention, and to consider the implications of alcohol policies on FASD prevention and women’s and fetal health. The majority of the evidence focused on alcohol in pregnancy guidelines, alcohol warning labels, and knowledge and uptake of national or regional alcohol and pregnancy guidelines. Several US studies described shifts in alcohol and pregnancy policy over the 7-year period, including moves to punitive approaches that criminalize women’s substance use or prompt child apprehension.

This review indicates that more attention could be paid to the role of alcohol policy in FASD prevention and in promoting women’s and fetal health, and that policy actions and advocacy could be important catalysts for both FASD prevention and women’s health promotion. Moving forward, it is essential that alcohol policies are rooted in evidence; attend to and promote women’s health including health during pregnancy; and are collaborative in order to prompt a higher standard of care, and more holistically respond to the factors that contribute to women’s alcohol use during pregnancy.

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