Background: While it is well established that alcohol can cross the placenta to the foetus and can affect an infant's development, many women continue to drink during pregnancy. For this reason it is important to determine what information is being provided, what information may be missing, and the preferred sources of information on this issue. In order to improve prevention strategies, we sought to understand the knowledge and experiences of pregnant women and their partners regarding the effects of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Methods: The current study utilised a qualitative study design in order to gain insight into the views and experiences of pregnant women, newly delivered mothers and their partners. Focus groups examined the participant's knowledge about the effects of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, the sources of information on this issue, and the psycho-social influences on their drinking behaviour. Five focus groups were conducted involving a total of 21 participants (17 female). A six-stage thematic analysis framework was used to analyse all focus group discussions in a systematic way. Results: Seven major themes were identified from the focus group data: 1) knowledge of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders; 2) message content and sources; 3) healthcare system; 4) society and culture; 5) partner role; 6) evaluation of risk; and 7) motivation. The findings indicated that although the majority of participants knew not to drink alcohol in pregnancy they had limited information on the specific harmful effects. In addition, routine enquiry and the provision of information by health care professionals were seen as lacking. Conclusions: The findings of this research provide important insights in to the relationship between pregnant women, their partners, and their healthcare providers. Several recommendations can be made on the basis of these findings. Firstly, public health messages and educational materials need to provide clear and consistent information about the effects of alcohol consumption on the developing baby. Additionally, more thorough and consistent routine enquiry for alcohol consumption in pregnant women needs to occur. Finally, it is important to ensure ongoing education for health professionals on the issue of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank the men and women who participated in the focus groups. We acknowledge the support of the Women’s and Children’s Hospital. We also acknowledge the financial support of the University of South Australia (postgraduate scholarship FCW).
© Crawford-Williams et al.
- Foetal alcohol spectrum disorders
- Health education