Article Summary: Warning about drinking during pregnancy: lessons from the French experience

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Since 2007, France has required all containers of alcohol to contain a warning about drinking during pregnancy. However, this label has only been noticed by just over half of female consumers, and the message is often misinterpreted.


  • Only 66% of women said they noticed the warning label on alcohol containers
  • Most women agreed that consuming alcohol daily could have harmful effects on the fetus
  • Most women thought that one binge drinking episode could hurt the fetus
  • When asked about the harmful effects of alcohol on the fetus during pregnancy, women responded that some of the potential consequences included: brain damage, limited growth/low birth weight, pre-term birth, and alcohol use disorders in adulthood


  • Nearly half of women thought spirits were more harmful to the fetus than wine or beer
  • Some women thought beer was encouraged for breastfeeding or lactation
  • These misconceptions could be partly because of the fact that French media encourages wine consumption and its potential health benefits, unrelated to pregnancy or breastfeeding


  • Women should be educated about what classifies a ‘standard drink’ and its alcohol content
  • Using the words “beer” or “wine” instead of “alcohol” may show women that all types of alcohol should not be consumed during pregnancy
  • Using a real picture instead of an animation on the warning label may help women understand the potential reality of FASD
  • In addition to information campaigns, other methods of education should be used at the community level and healthcare professionals should be involved

Take-home message

Although it is positive that France requires by law for every container of alcohol to contain a warning label against consuming alcohol during pregnancy, the understanding of these labels can be improved. The meaning of a ‘standard drink’ needs to be established for the general public, and different methods of education need to be explored in order to effectively relay evidence-based messages about the risks of alcohol consumption during pregnancy to pregnant women or women who may become pregnant.

For more information:

Authors: Agnès Dumas, Stéphanie Toutain, Catherine Hill, Laurence Simmat-Durand

Journal: Reproductive Health

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