Identifying Use of Alcohol and Other Substances during Pregnancy
Exposure to alcohol and/or other substances during pregnancy is a major risk to the development of the foetus. From the unborn child’s perspective, only zero consumption is risk-free. The consequences of prenatal exposure to alcohol and/or other substances can be lifelong,and the exposure may harm several developmental domains of these children. Preventing the harm early on is also important from the society’s perspective, as the negative consequences can lead to significant societal costs.
This report has briefly described the antenatal care system in each of the Nordic countries, how the use of alcohol, in particular, is identified, and by which screening instruments. Rather than reviewing or comparing which screening instruments are the most appropriate in identifying use of alcohol among pregnant women, the aim has been to describe the screening instruments available and used in the Nordic countries. The country profiles can help to learn from other countries’ practices and to reflect on one’s own practices in relation to other Nordic countries.
All the Nordic health authorities recommend total abstinence from alcohol and/or other substances during pregnancy. The prevalence estimates of alcohol use among pregnant women presented in the report indicate that there might be differences between the countries. However, this report is not able to answer why such differences might exist or what could explain the differences, but future Nordic research collaboration could address the underlying reasons for the potential differences.
What is also needed are prevalence studies of FASD/FAS in the Nordic countries to help us to better understand how many area ffected and to appreciate the size of the problem. Prenatal exposure to alcohol is a blind spot and needs to be put under the spotlight.