Improving communication of guidance on drinking alcohol in pregnancy

May 17, 2018, Cardiff University
Improving communication of guidance on drinking alcohol in pregnancy
Credit: Cardiff University

Advice about alcohol consumption during pregnancy could be conveyed more effectively to parents and health professionals, research at Cardiff University has found.

Since 2016, guidance from UK Chief Medical Officers recommends that women who are planning a or are pregnant abstain from altogether.

A new stakeholder study by Dr. Rachel Brown and Heather Trickey of DECIPHer, (Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement) Cardiff University, considered the ways that this guidance is experienced and communicated by different groups. Mothers, antenatal teachers, midwives and policy makers were asked for their views. Following this work, the researchers have suggested ways in which communication of the advice might be improved.

Trickey said: "There is good evidence that a lot in pregnancy can be harmful. There is also a 'dose-response' effect with more alcohol leading to more adverse outcomes and Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) were unable to determine a 'safe level' after commissioning a comprehensive evidence review.

"However, the evidence for harm from drinking small amounts in pregnancy (below 1-2 units a week) is limited. CMOs concluded that lack of evidence is not the same thing as a lack of harm. They decided to take a 'better safe than sorry' (precautionary) approach by issuing a simple 'Don't Drink' message, intended to help women avoid any risk.

Dr. Brown added: "Taking into account the evidence available, avoiding drinking alcohol completely during pregnancy is certainly the safest option. But our research also highlights potential for unintended adverse effects from an abstinence message. These included raised anxiety among women who had drunk alcohol before they knew they were pregnant, experiences of social shaming for choosing to have a drink, and experiences of having their decisions policed by strangers. The guidance should be there to advise and support expectant mothers in a positive way."

Brown and Trickey believe communication strategies need to align with a wider agenda to improve public understanding of the evidence and could do more to be relevant to women's lived experience of pregnancy planning and the fact that social drinking is a normal part of many women's lives. Rather than targeting messages to individual mothers, they suggest an approach which considers the role of partners, family and friends in affirming and supporting mothers' decisions, for example by joining an expectant mother in not drinking.

The researchers intend to explore ways in which the guidance about drinking during pregnancy can be communicated more effectively.

Explore further: Evidence for potential harms of light drinking in pregnancy 'surprisingly' limited

More information: Findings are available here: alcoholresearchuk.org/download … nalReport_0151.1.pdf

Related Stories

Evidence for potential harms of light drinking in pregnancy 'surprisingly' limited

September 11, 2017
The evidence for the potentially harmful effects of light or occasional drinking in pregnancy is 'surprisingly limited,' but women are still better off avoiding all alcohol while pregnant, just in case, concludes a pooled ...

Maternal binge drinking linked to mood problems and alcohol abuse in offspring

April 25, 2018
Binge drinking by pregnant and lactating mothers can impair the mental health of their offspring, reports a study published today in Frontiers in Psychiatry. In a rat model, Italian researchers find that while habitual drinking ...

Low-level drinking during pregnancy influences babies' facial development

June 7, 2017
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy at low levels – even the occasional drink – can subtly influence the way a baby's face is formed in the womb, researchers from the Murdoch Children's Research Institute have found.

Drinking alcohol while pregnant is common in UK, Ireland, and Australasia

July 6, 2015
Drinking alcohol while pregnant is common, ranging from 20% to 80% among those questioned in the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, reveals a study of almost 18,000 women published in the online journal BMJ Open.

Norwegian women drink least while pregnant, British women drink most

April 12, 2017
A study among over 7000 women in 11 European countries shows the proportion of women in Europe who drink alcohol when they know they are pregnant is lowest in Norway and highest in the UK. The countries with the highest proportion ...

Should women consume alcohol during pregnancy?

October 6, 2015
In The BMJ this week, experts discuss the evidence and current guidelines on the controversial topic of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

Recommended for you

New study shows higher formaldehyde risk in e-cigarettes than previously thought

May 21, 2018
Portland State University researchers who published an article three years ago in the New England Journal of Medicine about the presence of previously undiscovered forms of formaldehyde in e-cigarette vapor revisited their ...

Insufficient sleep, even without extended wakefulness, leads to performance impairments

May 21, 2018
Millions of individuals obtain insufficient sleep on a daily basis, which can lead to impaired performance and other adverse physiological outcomes. To what extent these impairments are caused by the short sleep duration ...

Sleep better, parent better: Study shows link between maternal sleep and permissive parenting

May 21, 2018
Research has shown that consistently not getting enough sleep, or getting poor quality sleep, can put you at risk for a number of health conditions. But how does sleep, or the lack of it, affect how you parent?

Mediterranean diet may blunt air pollution's ill health effects

May 21, 2018
Eating a Mediterranean diet may protect people from some of the harm of long-term exposure to air pollution, and reduce their risk of dying from heart attacks, stroke and other causes of death, according to new research presented ...

Autism is not linked to eating fish in pregnacy

May 21, 2018
A major study examining the fish-eating habits of pregnant women has found that they are not linked to autism or autistic traits in their children.

Improving heart health could prevent frailty in old age

May 21, 2018
New research has shown that older people with very low heart disease risks also have very little frailty, raising the possibility that frailty could be prevented.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.