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Pregnancy and alcohol use: What OB-GYNs know, believe, and do about it

Nable Senturias, Y.S., Durkin, K.M., Nagle, L., and Zoorob, R.J. – 2012

Results of a survey of medical professionals on their perceptions of patients’ alcohol use during pregnancy. Presents background on the issue, including data on the prevalence of drinking during pregnancy, and information on the consequences of fetal alcohol exposure. Describes the importance of screening for alcohol use in prenatal health care settings to prevent fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Results of a survey of OB-GYNs show that a majority believe there is no safe amount of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. However some believe that an occasional drink is safe, particularly during the last trimester. Responses on alcohol use vary by both gender and number of years in practice. A majority report difficulty in identifying patients with alcohol abuse problems. A majority report that they provide information on alcohol use during pregnancy to all patients. The primary barrier to effective screening is patient dishonesty. Physicians also note lack of time, good screening tools, and discomfort discussing the issue. Some report concern that a patient will discontinue prenatal care. Authors cite lack of screening and perceptions that some alcohol consumption is safe as issues of concern, and provide suggestions on improving screening techniques and education of medical professionals.