Few docs ask about alcohol in pregnancy
Reported May 15, 2008
Few pediatricians routinely ask about alcohol use during pregnancy and only 12 per cent give advice consistent with national health guidelines, a study has found.
Professor Elizabeth Elliott said a four-year national investigation of foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) by the Australian Pediatric Surveillance Unit found reporting rates for FAS were low even though children could suffer multiple disabilities.
“FAS is part of the spectrum of disorders caused by alcohol exposure in utero and is potentially preventable,” Prof Elliott said in a paper presented to the annual congress of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians in Adelaide.
“Pediatricians often didn’t know the diagnostic features of FAS, where to refer, or how to manage children and 70 per cent were concerned about stigmatising children and families if they did make the diagnosis.
“Few pediatricians routinely asked about alcohol use in pregnancy and only 12 per cent gave advice consistent with National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines.
“Most requested more information for themselves and their patients about the effects of alcohol on the unborn child.”
Prof Elliott said her study identified 92 children with FAS and they had multiple physical, emotional, behavioural, learning, hearing and visual problems.
Only 40 per cent lived with a biological parent, 65 per cent were indigenous and 51 per cent had an affected sibling.
“These findings indicate the need for education about FAS, clinical services, effective interventions and alcohol policy,” Prof Elliott said.
“Australian women want guidance from health professionals about alcohol in pregnancy and this must be underpinned by current, evidence-based policy.”