Global trends of increasing alcohol consumption among women of childbearing age, social acceptability of women's alcohol use, as well as recent changes in alcohol use patterns due to the COVID-19 pandemic may put many pregnancies at higher risk for prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE), which can cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). Therefore, screening of pregnant women for alcohol use has become more important than ever and should be a public health priority. This narrative review presents the state of the science on various existing prenatal alcohol use screening strategies, including the clinical utility of validated alcohol use screening instruments. It also discusses barriers for alcohol use screening in pregnancy, such as practitioner constraints, unplanned pregnancies, delayed access to prenatal care, and stigma associated with substance use in pregnancy, providing recommendations to address these barriers. By implementing consistent alcohol use screening, prenatal care providers have the opportunity to facilitate access to counseling and brief interventions and thus, to prevent new cases of FASD and improve maternal and child health.
Keywords: Alcohol; Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder; Fetal alcohol syndrome; Pregnancy; Prevention; Screening.
© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2021.