For more resources on alcohol, pregnancy and perspectives on FASD prevention, please visit: https://fasdprevention.wordpress.com/
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Preconception care is part of a continuum of support that promotes health during the reproductive years: for young girls and women who may be drinking alcohol without using effective contraception, those who are planning a pregnancy, and people in the interconception periods. Preconception care includes health promotion, education and counselling support that may have a focus on: protection (i.e., folic acid supplementation), avoiding harms (i.e., of alcohol use during pregnancy), and/or managing conditions (i.e., diabetes).
Discussing substance use in the preconception period can encourage reduction in alcohol and other substance use before and during pregnancy. For example, pre-pregnancy alcohol use is a predictor of alcohol use during pregnancy and smoking fewer cigarettes pre pregnancy is a predictor of quitting smoking during pregnancy. Despite the importance of reaching women in the preconception period, efforts to do so have not always been prioritized by our health systems or in training to health and social service providers.
Two booklets designed to promote preconception care
In response to this gap in resources for people planning a pregnancy, the Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health and Canada FASD Research Network recently developed Thinking About Pregnancy: A Booklet to Reflect on Alcohol Use Before You are Pregnant. The booklet recognizes women’s agency and interest in learning more about supporting a healthy pregnancy. As such, we translated what we know as researchers into an accessible booklet for women that they can use independently or walk through with their partner(s) and healthcare providers when thinking about or planning a pregnancy.
Included in the booklet is information about standard drink sizes, why thinking about alcohol before you are pregnant is important, mocktail recipes and activities that help women reflect on what they like or dislike about drinking, what alternatives to alcohol use may be in their ‘toolbox’ and who is and will be by their side as they make change.
Project CHOICES in Manitoba offers another booklet that aligns with and complements Thinking About Pregnancy. While Thinking About Pregnancy is geared towards people who are planning a pregnancy, Project Choices: Alcohol and Sex Deserves a Discussion (available in French here) is geared towards youth and young adults who drink alcohol, are having sex, and want more information about alcohol use and birth control.
The booklet contains information on alcohol, contraception, and consent, and includes a number of self-reflection, goal setting and mindfulness activities that can help decrease alcohol use and/or increase contraception use and safe sex. Although the booklet can be used as a stand-alone resource, counsellors in the Project CHOICES program also use this booklet to educate participants about alcohol use, birth control, FASD, and support participants towards healthy goal-setting.
These booklets are designed to be accessible for girls, women and gender diverse individuals in reproductive years. Turning more attention to preconception care offers an opportunity to promote and empower health and wellbeing, while simultaneously contributing to the prevention of FASD.