Reducing harm caused by alcohol


Scotland publishes first UK guidelines for diagnosing fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD)

Earlier this month the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN) published the UK’s first guidelines to support healthcare professionals in diagnosing fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).

FASD describes a range of harmful effects to a fetus and baby’s development when alcohol is consumed during pregnancy, resulting in brain damage and, in its most severe form, physical issues such as a smaller head and poor growth. The detrimental effects are life-long. It is estimated that approximately 3.2% of babies born in the UK are affected by FASD. A recent study in Glasgow found that 42% of meconium samples from newborn babies showed evidence of the mother having consumed alcohol during pregnancy, with 15% of those pregnancies exposed to very high levels of alcohol.

Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland said, “Alcohol Focus Scotland welcomes these new clinical guidelines which will help to ensure people affected by FASD are diagnosed and receive the support they need. However, we need to do more to prevent FASD in the first place. The Chief Medical Officers’ advice is clear that women who are pregnant or trying to conceive should avoid drinking alcohol. That message - and the reasons why it is so important - needs to be communicated through social marketing campaigns, but also through GPs, family-planning and ante-natal services who have an opportunity to talk to women about their drinking when advising on fertility or pregnancy. The alcohol industry also has a role to play and Alcohol Focus Scotland would like to see mandatory, clear and consistent warning labels on bottles and cans explaining the health risks of drinking alcohol during pregnancy.”

Read the guidelines.