How COVID-19 could impact Australia’s next generation
The National Organisation for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (NOFASD) Australia coronavirus (COVID-19) statement 24 April 2020.
Recommendations to the public for preventing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) during COVID-19 home isolation
COVID-19 measures mean couples are spending more time at home, and the possibility of a COVID related baby boom is being widely discussed. In addition, alcohol sales in Australia have increased dramatically, and the reduction in work and social visits has led to increased drinking at home. These two factors combined result in an increased risk of alcohol-exposed pregnancies, including alcohol exposure in those important first weeks before the couple becomes aware that they have conceived.
At least 50% of Australian women experience an unplanned pregnancy, and the average time taken to identify a pregnancy is 5-6 weeks. This provides a window of unintended alcohol exposure for the developing baby. In addition, the myth that one or two drinks won’t harm a baby continues to be widely believed. The reality is that no amount of alcohol has been found safe during pregnancy, with higher consumption linked to higher risk for the child.
Alcohol exposure during pregnancy is associated with a range of adverse consequences including miscarriage, still or premature birth, low birth weight, FASD and birth defects. FASD is a lifelong disability which includes challenges for daily living, physical health, learning, memory, attention, communication, emotional regulation and social skills. There is also evidence that fathers’ alcohol consumption pre-conception can negatively impact a baby’s development.
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Guidelines state that:
For women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, not drinking is the safest option.
Specifically, the NHMRC report that “the effects of alcohol exposure on fetal development occur throughout pregnancy (including before the pregnancy is confirmed)”. The lifelong consequences for the child and their family can be very high. Learn more about FASD.
Couples are encouraged to plan their pregnancies, make healthy choices accordingly and avoid the risk of adverse outcomes from prenatal alcohol exposure. It is recommended that:
- For those trying to get pregnant, both parents stop drinking alcohol.
- For those not planning a pregnancy but able to conceive, use effective contraception.
- For women who may have conceived, do not drink alcohol until it can be confirmed that conception has not taken place.
It can be difficult to abstain from alcohol when it is part of a family routine, or during times of stress. View the Department of Health resources to support mental health, FARE’s alcohol-free strategies to stay healthy and relax, or contact a service for more support.
If you have questions or concerns around pregnancy and alcohol call the National FASD Helpline on 1800 860 613 or contact NOFASD Australia. Further information about FASD can also be obtained on the FASD Hub Australia website.