Article Summary #15: Prenatal care of women who give birth to children with FASD

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This Article Summary is part of our CanFASD Connect Top Articles Summary Series. Over the next several months, we will be bringing you summaries of all the recent research papers from our list of the Top FASD Articles of 2019. This is an overview of a recent research paper called Prenatal care of women who gave birth to children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder in a universal health care system: a case-control study using linked administrative data.


Almost 10% of women around the world report consuming alcohol during pregnancy. Physicians delivering prenatal health care services to women are in a unique position to help prevent or reduce prenatal alcohol exposure. They are often the first point of care for women of childbearing age and are frequently accessed for preventative health care.

One way to understand how prenatal health professionals may help to reduce prenatal alcohol exposure involves documenting whether or not women who gave birth to children with FASD had access to adequate prenatal health care. Researchers in this study looked at data from a cohort of 702 Manitoban women whose children were born between 1984 and 2012 and were eventually diagnosed with FASD. The researchers then compared access to prenatal care among women whose child has FASD (study group) with women whose child was not diagnosed with FASD (comparison group).

Main findings:
  • 41% of women who gave birth to children with FASD received inadequate or no prenatal care, compared with only 15% of women in the comparison group.
  • Women who gave birth to children with FASD experienced complex social challenges, including single parenthood, low socioeconomic status, higher numbers of pregnancies and children, and higher rates of mental health disorders than the comparison group.
  • FASD prevention professionals may consider implementing outreach strategies to reduce the some of the complex barriers that limit women’s access to prenatal care and to help women reduce or stop alcohol use during pregnancy.
  • Targeted alcohol prevention and reduction interventions are important to support women who use alcohol during pregnancy and to increase their access prenatal care.
  • Further research is needed to better understand how health care practitioners identify, screen, and treat women for alcohol use in pregnancy and to identify all the barriers to adequate prenatal care for women who use alcohol.


Take-home message:

Adequate prenatal care is an important part of identifying and possibly reducing or eliminating alcohol use during pregnancy. Multidisciplinary interventions that address the barriers to adequate prenatal care for vulnerable women is essential to help reduce the risk of alcohol-exposed pregnancies and support healthy outcomes.

Authors: Deepa Singal, Marni Brownell, Elizabeth Wall-Wieler, Dan Chateau, Ana Hanlon-Dearman, Sally Longstaffe and Leslie L. Roos

Journal: CMAJ Open

Date: February 11, 2019

Read the full article (available open-access)

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