Drinking during pregnancy: Information may not be enough

  • In most Western countries, the medical and official position on drinking during pregnancy has been to recommend abstention.
  • A Danish study shows that few pregnant women actually discuss drinking with their medical advisors.
  • Most of their information was gathered from the media and family.
  • A majority of the women considered some alcohol during pregnancy to be acceptable.

Numerous studies have clearly shown that heavy drinking during pregnancy is the largest preventable cause of birth defects and mental retardation in the United States. Among most Western countries, the medical and official position on drinking during pregnancy has been to recommend abstention. However, research has shown that information about the potentially harmful effects of drinking alcohol during pregnancy does not necessarily lead to knowledge of the issue, nor do information and knowledge necessarily affect a pregnant woman's attitude toward drinking. A study in the October issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research examines where a group of pregnant Danish women obtained their information about drinking during pregnancy, their knowledge of the subject, and their attitudes toward it.

"Several studies have suggested that passive receipt of information may possibly - but not necessarily - influence awareness and knowledge, but not attitudes or behavior," said Ulrik Kesmodel, associate professor of epidemiology and social medicine at the University of Aarhus and lead author of the study. "Yet it seems that many politicians and people working with public health believe that just more information will help people change their lifestyle. In reality, information is just one element in changing attitudes and behavior. Knowledge, previous experiences, social influences, current health habits, and underlying possibilities of change are the key determinants of change in attitudes and motivation and, ev


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