Aim: To measure paediatricians' knowledge, attitudes and practices regarding foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and alcohol use during pregnancy.
Methods: Postal survey of paediatricians in Western Australia in 2004. Of 179 eligible paediatricians, 132 (73.7%) responded (90 consultant paediatricians and 42 paediatric trainees).
Results: Of the 132 respondents, 18.9% identified all four essential diagnostic features for FAS. Only 49.2% had previously diagnosed FAS (range 1-30 cases) but 91.7% had seen children diagnosed by others; 76.5% had suspected but not diagnosed FAS; 12.1% had been convinced of but not recorded the diagnosis; and 31.8% had referred children for diagnostic confirmation. Although 79.6% agreed early diagnosis might be advantageous, 69.6% said diagnosis might be stigmatising and 36.4% thought parents might resist referral for assessment and treatment. Although 78.2% agreed avoiding binge drinking may reduce FAS, only 43.9% believed women should abstain from using alcohol in pregnancy. Only 4.5% felt very prepared to deal with a patient with FAS: most wanted educational materials for themselves (69.7%) and child carers (71.2%). Only 23.3% routinely ask about alcohol use when taking a pregnancy history and 4.2% routinely provide information on the consequences of alcohol use. Only 11.4% had read the current Australian national health guideline regarding alcohol consumption in pregnancy and 9.1% provided advice consistent with the guideline.
Conclusion: Paediatricians identified the need for educational materials about FAS and alcohol use in pregnancy for themselves and their clients. Lack of knowledge about FAS diagnosis and management will limit opportunities for diagnosis, prevention and early intervention.