National Drug Strategy
National Drug Strategy

Intergovernmental committee on Drugs working party on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders


Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders in Australia: An Update

June 2012

3.1 Screening and brief intervention

prev pageTOC |next page

Table of contents

As discussed in the previous chapter, screening of alcohol use in pregnancy varies by state in Australia. Pregnant women are typically not assessed for their drinking habits in most countries, although recent research from Sweden suggests it is feasible to implement systematic screening with a simple questionnaire to facilitate early recognition of women at risk (Nilsen 2009). Other research suggests that the use of one question could identify women at risk (Johnson et al. 2010).

A recent Australian study examined different questions for asking about alcohol use in pregnancy and suggested that women should be screened for alcohol intake with a validated clinical instrument that includes assessment of consumption patterns. The questions should be accompanied by clear instructions for the health practitioner on how to interpret and discuss the information. In addition, handouts of educational material should be provided to the woman (Muggli et al. 2010).

There is growing evidence for the effectiveness of brief intervention in reducing alcohol consumption during pregnancy. It has been proposed that brief intervention should be at least as effective with pregnant women as with other client groups (Nilsen 2009). Although only a few brief intervention trials have been conducted with pregnant women, these women are generally motivated to reduce their alcohol intake, and the contextual change provided by the pregnancy provides an opportunity to break drinking behaviour patterns.

Supportive counselling for pregnant women with alcohol-related problems has been shown to help women to reduce alcohol consumption prior to the third trimester in two-thirds of cases (Rosett et al. 1983).

prev pageTOC |next page