Midwives and pregnant women talk about alcohol: what advice do we give and what do they receive?
Background the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recently revised its guidelines for alcohol consumption during pregnancy and breast feeding, moving from a recommendation of minimising intake to one of abstinence. Women are potentially exposed to a variety of messages about alcohol and pregnancy, including from the media and social contacts, and are likely to see midwives as the source of expert advice in understanding these contradictory messages. Objective to explore the advice that midwives believe they give to pregnant women about alcohol consumption, and the advice that pregnant women believe they receive; the knowledge and attitudes of both groups regarding alcohol consumption and the consistency with the NHMRC guidelines; and the receptivity and comfort of both groups in discussing alcohol consumption in the context of antenatal appointments. Design individual semi-structured interviews with midwives and pregnant women. Setting face-to-face interviews with midwives and telephone interviews with pregnant women were conducted in two regional areas of New South Wales in 2008–2009. Participants 12 midwives and 12 pregnant women. Findings midwives and pregnant women consistently agreed that conversations about alcohol are generally limited to brief screening questions at the first visit, and the risks are not discussed or explained (except for high-risk women). Key conclusions both groups expressed comfort with the idea of discussing alcohol consumption, but lacked knowledge of the risk and recommendation, and it appears that this opportunity to provide women with information is under-utilised. Implications for practice there is a need to provide midwives with accurate information about the risks of alcohol consumption during pregnancy and effective communication tools to encourage them to discuss the risks and recommendations with their patients.