Background: Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) has been identified as a major cause of impairment to normal physical and intellectual development among Indigenous children in Far North Queensland; however, little is known of the pregnancy characteristics of mothers of those children diagnosed with FAS or of interventions that might assist in lowering the prevalence of the syndrome.
Aim: To review the pregnancy records of women whose infants were subsequently diagnosed with FAS by the Paediatric Outreach Service (POS) of the Cairns Base Hospital, and to determine how such women might be identified prospectively in pregnancy and offered intervention to reduce alcohol consumption.
Methods: A retrospective case-control study involving all children diagnosed with FAS by the POS between 1994 and 2006; maternal pregnancy records were accessed and details obtained.
Results: Mothers of cases were older, of higher parity, smoked more cigarettes, attended fewer antenatal visits and experienced more antenatal and delivery complications than mothers of controls. The average gestational age at booking was not statistically significant between the two groups. There was a significant difference between the two groups in self-reported alcohol consumption both before and during pregnancy and in numbers of women who decreased alcohol consumption once the diagnosis of pregnancy was known to them.
Conclusions: There is the potential to identify prospectively women presenting for antenatal care who are heavy drinkers and risk FAS in their infants, using the self-reported information about alcohol intake already being collected by our service; such women may then be offered specific interventions to try to reduce alcohol consumption in pregnancy.