With so many ways to get information now, women often receive confusing and conflicting information. Messages about alcohol use during pregnancy can sometimes make women feel judged. Knowing where to find reliable, evidence-based information can help women and their partners make healthy decisions and get support.
What We Know about Alcohol Use and Pregnancy
Years of studying the effects of alcohol during pregnancy and following women and their children have shown that it’s safest not to drink alcohol during pregnancy (or if planning a pregnancy). There is no known safe amount, no safe time, and no safe type of alcohol to drink during pregnancy. Drinking alcohol while pregnant puts babies at risk for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Learn more about FASD here.
It’s important to know that it’s never too late to quit drinking or cut down. Reducing alcohol use by any amount decreases the risk of harm.
Where Women Can Find Reliable Information
Most women turn to their health care providers for the latest evidence-based information. Talking about drinking and pregnancy can be uncomfortable or stressful. In many locations across Canada, health care workers are learning about practices that take into consideration women’s feelings of safety when discussing their concerns. There are health care providers including midwives who offer a safe space to discuss substance use, birth control and pregnancy planning. They provide information on low-risk drinking guidelines. They can also help women find more support if they want it.
What Women, Partners, and Families Can Do
Most women stop or reduce drinking when they find out they are pregnant. Others decide to use effective birth control until they have made the decision to become pregnant, and then reduce or stop their drinking. Partner and family support makes a difference.
Women are more likely to avoid drinking during pregnancy when their partners and families support them in their efforts.
Partners can offer non-alcoholic options, take a break in their own use, and ask for the same support and encouragement from family and friends.
How Women Can Get the Help They Want
Women may feel singled out for binge drinking or blamed for their alcohol use especially during pregnancy. Women who cannot stop drinking on their own deserve support and compassion. Many are unable to ask for or get the help they need for many reasons.
There are programs that offer stigma-free support for pregnant and parenting women, 3 options:
- Pregnancy outreach programs – see for example the community based programs across BC
- Holistic programs for women facing multiple burdens - see for example Herway Home in Victoria BC
- Support groups such as those offered through Facebook by Addiction Recovery Coaching
Author’s Bio:Today's post was written by Christina Talbot. Christina works with the Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health and is a member of the CanFASD Prevention Network Action Team. As a social worker, she has partnered with pregnant and parenting women and their families in a variety of settings.