Preventing alcohol exposure in pregnancy: examples from Member States
A new publication from WHO/Europe, “Prevention of harm caused by alcohol exposure in pregnancy: rapid review and case studies from Member States”, presents examples of prevention activities such as awareness raising programs, providing advice and ensuring that pathways to treatment are available.
A large proportion of women in the WHO European Region consume alcohol. As approximately half of all pregnancies are unplanned, the exposure of fetuses to alcohol is a public health concern. International research has shown that between 6% (Sweden) and 82% (Ireland) of pregnant women continue to use alcohol, despite the fact that there is no known safe limit for alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
Alcohol intake during pregnancy increases the risk for miscarriage and low birth weight, and can interfere with the developmental processes of the fetus in ways that lead to brain damage and physical abnormalities.
Case studies from countries
Several countries have enhanced their health care systems by providing clinical guidelines for identifying alcohol use in pregnancy as well as appropriate treatment to help pregnant women reduce or stop alcohol consumption.
Others have focused on ensuring that individuals affected by FASD, and their families, access sufficient support.
Norway ran the nationwide campaign “Alcohol-free pregnancy” for several years. The campaign’s message was disseminated widely through leaflets, posters, a short film broadcast in cinemas and on television, and advertisements in magazines, newspapers and on Google. The campaign aimed to increase awareness in the general public and also to provide information to health professionals. Through contact with journalists and medical experts, the campaign saw many articles published in the media. It received several awards in global competitions, and data from general population surveys showed some subsequent changes in attitudes towards alcohol intake in pregnancy.
Inspiration for prevention
WHO Europe hopes that making this overview of examples and case studies available will inspire future governments action for preventing alcohol exposure in pregnancy across the WHO Europe region – and beyond.