Objective: South Africa's Western Cape Province has one of the highest rates of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder globally. Alcohol-serving venues are likely important sites to identify women at high risk of having a child with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. The goal of this study was to examine the risk for alcohol-exposed pregnancies among women who drink in alcohol-serving venues.
Method: Cross-sectional surveys were conducted with 200 women of reproductive age at seven drinking venues in a single Cape Town community. Surveys assessed sexual behavior, contraceptive use, and drinking behavior (both current and during previous pregnancies). Women were defined as being at risk for alcohol-exposed pregnancy if they were currently drinking, sexually active in the previous 60 days, and not consistently using modern contraceptives.
Results: Almost all participants (95.5%) met criteria for hazardous drinking. In total, 20.3% of the 152 sexually active women were identified as at risk for alcohol-exposed pregnancy, and 2 women were currently pregnant and drinking. A majority of sexually active participants (79.6%) reported consistent use of a modern contraceptive. Most contraceptives (66.1%) were short-acting methods such as injectables. Of the 176 participants who reported previous pregnancies, 64.8% said they drank alcohol during a previous pregnancy and 51.1% met criteria for hazardous drinking during that pregnancy.
Conclusions: Given the high rates of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, alcohol-serving venues should be targeted for fetal alcohol spectrum disorder prevention interventions. Efforts should be made to increase uptake of long-acting contraceptives among women who do not wish to get pregnant and to promote alcohol cessation among women with pregnancy intentions.