Physicians delivering prenatal health care (PNC) services to women are in a unique position to help prevent or reduce the amount of alcohol consumed during pregnancies and can play an integral role in decreasing the prevalence of FASD.
PNC is often the first point of access of care for women of child-bearing age and a frequently used preventive health care service of universal health care. Physicians delivering PNC should routinely screen for alcohol use in pregnancy, and when they identify pregnant patients who are consuming alcohol, they should refer them to treatment and support programs and link them to community resources.
However, screening and intervention programs implemented in PNC settings may miss a population at extremely high risk for alcohol use during pregnancy. This study investigated prenatal care use among women who use alcohol during pregnancy. Women who give birth to children with FASD often have increased social complexities, including single parenthood, low socioeconomic status, more previous pregnancies, and higher rates of mental health disorders. These social complexities may affect the way they access prenatal care.
PNC has been shown to be more effective if it begins in the first trimester of pregnancy and regular visits are continued throughout pregnancy. Within FASD prevention strategies focusing on prenatal care, outreach efforts are necessary to reduce the inequities in access to and use of prenatal care by women who may be harder to reach. The North East Alberta FASD Network (NEAFAN), provides outreach and support services for individuals and caregivers. These programs are designed to assist and support individuals affected by FASD and their families/caregivers.
In addition, The Prevention Conversation is an innovative approach that focuses on the unique role healthcare professionals and social service providers can play in engaging women of childbearing age in supportive and non-judgemental conversations about alcohol use and pregnancy. Free training is available through the Alberta FASD Service Networks for anyone interacting with women of childbearing age. To connect directly with a Prevention Conversation facilitator in North East Alberta contact NEAFAN.