Australian alcohol guidelines changed in 2009 to state that not drinking is the safest option for women who are pregnant or those who may become pregnant. Women who reported being pregnant after the introduction of this recommendation explained a number of problems with the information they received about alcohol use during pregnancy. There were differences in the amount of information they received, the message that was conveyed to them, and also in how they interpreted the recommendation. To improve how this information is communicated so women can make an informed decision about whether to drink or abstain during pregnancy, women suggested that a clear, strong and consistent recommendation be provided to women by healthcare professionals as early as possible.
What this research is about:
Heavy alcohol use during pregnancy can have negative impacts on the mother and child, but the potential effects of light to moderate drinking are unclear. In Australia, this has meant that the recommendations about a safe level of alcohol use during pregnancy have changed over the years. The latest recommendations are that not drinking is the safest option. It is important that women are made aware of the potential harms and the lack of a known safe level of consumption. Women should be given enough information to feel confident in making their own personal decision on whether or not to drink alcohol during pregnancy. This study explored what women thought about the information they received about alcohol use during pregnancy.
What did the researchers do:
Telephone interviews were conducted with 19 women from the 1973-78 cohort of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH) who had been pregnant after the 2009 alcohol recommendations were introduced.
What did the research find:
There were a lot of inconsistencies in the information that pregnant women received about alcohol use. Some women found that too much information was given, whereas others received none. The actual recommendations that the women were given varied from no alcohol to a little bit being okay. Conflicting messages were common. Women interpreted the information differently. Some believed that not knowing a safe level of alcohol use during pregnancy meant that small amounts were okay, but others concluded that that meant that no alcohol was safe. Overall, the women believed that there was a need to provide better information to pregnant women about alcohol use. They suggested that a clear, consistent recommendation be provided as early as possible, preferably by healthcare professionals.
How can you use this research:
Information about alcohol use during pregnancy should be provided systematically by healthcare professionals to all women of childbearing age. This will facilitate informed decision making by women who are pregnant or who may become pregnant.
Contact person: Amy Anderson Amy.Anderson@newcastle.edu.au
Citation: Anderson AE, Hure AJ, Kay-Lambkin FJ, Loxton DJ. Women’s perceptions of information about alcohol use during pregnancy: a qualitative study BMC Public Health 2014;14:1048