Knowledge, beliefs, behaviours, and decision making associated with alcohol consumption during pregnancy in an urban prenatal population

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Kavanagh Yeo, Catherine R.
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Despite the age old warnings against the use of alcohol during pregnancy, and the abundance of scientific research that links Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE) with prenatal maternal alcohol ingestion, FAS/FAE remains one of the leading causes of birth defects and mental retardation. It is critical to explore the reasons why women may choose to drink alcohol during their pregnancies to identify areas which may direct interventions and future research. A descriptive cross-sectional survey was completed using Beeker's Health Belief Model (1974) as a guide to exploring the phenomena of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. A researcher designed self-reporting questionnaire that incorporated previously used tools and open-ended questions was used to gather information from the 117 pregnant study participants regarding their knowledge, beliefs, behaviours, and decision making related to alcohol consumption during pregnancy. A small number of study participants continued to drink duringtheir pregnancy. They tended to be older, Caucasian, more educated, in a higher family income bracket, and with slightly lower knowledge scores. In general, the study sample possessed a high knowledge level and high levels of perceived susceptibility and severity to FAS/FAE. The most common benefit cited by participants for abstaining from alcohol during pregnancy was for health reasons, especially related to the baby. The most common barrier to abstaining was related to alcohol being an enjoyable part of the woman's lifestyle. Recommendations are made for health care education, practice, future research, and refinement of the research questionnaire.