Issue Paper: The Role of Partners in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Prevention

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Father’s Day is coming up on Sunday, June 16th, and while it is a time to celebrate all of the amazing Fathers in our lives, it also reminds us of the role they play even before a child is born. Fathers are an example of a partner who plays an important role in a healthy pregnancy.

Most FASD prevention efforts are geared towards women and girls. It is important to consider the role of the partners in preventing maternal alcohol use. This issue paper looks at the role of partners in affecting maternal alcohol consumption.

Relational Influences on Maternal Alcohol Use

  • Living with a partner who frequently drinks alcohol can increase the mothers’ exposure to alcohol, increased stress around her own alcohol use, or challenge the well-being of herself/her children
  • Women who are more satisfied in their relationship and are supported by their partners to reduce their alcohol consumption, they are less likely to consume alcohol in pregnancy

Maternal Alcohol Use and Partner Violence

  • Pregnant women experience higher rates of intimate partner violence than non-pregnant women
  • Intimate partner violence can affect women’s capacity to limit their alcohol use, obtain birth control, or access substance use treatment services
  • Women may use alcohol as way to cope with daily stressors, and the effects of violence on their mental and physical health

Gendered Expectations in Preconception Health

  • Preconception health and family planning have not been prioritized in men’s health or fatherhood
    • Research has shown that men have little understanding about preconception health and may be hesitant to participate in health promotion interventions
  • Shifting gendered expectations to support men’s health and engage men in their own health can facilitate a shift in partner’s efforts to reduce substance use in pregnancy and invest in their own health

Take-home message
Including partners in FASD prevention efforts and preconception care is important in supporting a healthy pregnancy. Partners can influence women’s alcohol use. Engaging partners in their own health, preconception health, and pregnancy planning can support the individual and couple in increasing preconception knowledge, evoke helpful changes in alcohol consumption, enhance maternal health outcomes, and support healthier relationships.

Click here to read the full issue paper and here to read the accompanying paper on the genetic and epigenetic influences of fathers on FASD.

Visit the CanFASD website for more information and resources.

Authors: Lindsay Wolfson, Kelly Harding, Nancy Poole

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