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Drinking during pregnancy: American Indians and African Americans

  • Most health campaigns recommend abstinence from alcohol during pregnancy.
  • Some women nonetheless continue to drink at relatively high levels while pregnant.
  • This study examines two groups considered most at-risk: American Indians and African Americans.
  • Misconceptions appear to exist both about and among the study populations.
Public health campaigns that recommend abstinence from alcohol during pregnancy have been, for the most part, successful. There are, however, some women for whom the "Just Say No" approach to drinking during pregnancy does not resonate. In an effort to better understand this anomaly, a study in the August issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research (ACER) closely examined the exposure and response to health warnings among two groups considered most at-risk for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS): American Indians and African Americans.

"We wanted to look at how some women interpret the messages they're receiving," said Lee Ann Kaskutas, a research scientist with the Alcohol Research Group at Berkeley and author of the study. "We wanted to know if they understand and believe the health warnings. We wanted to discover what misconceptions women might have about the risk of drinking during pregnancy, what drinking habits they might have during pregnancy, and we also wanted to look very carefully at their drink size." The ACER paper is part of the larger Developing Effective Educational Resources (DEER) project, which is designed to closely examine how warnings about drinking during pregnancy reach and affect women whose children are believed to be most at-risk for FAS.

As many people are aware, heavy drinking during pregnancy can cause FAS, which is the largest preventable cause of birth defects and mental retardation in the United States. Lighter drinking during pregnancy can lead to Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE), such as low birthweight, slower postnatal growth, and even spontaneo
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Contact: Lee Ann Kaskutas, Dr.P.H.
lkaskutas@arg.org
510-642-1751
Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research
13-Aug-2000


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