Globally, nearly 10% of women drink alcohol during
pregnancy, with wide variations by country and WHO region. In some
countries, more than 45% of women consume alcohol during
In Canada, which has clinical guidelines advising abstinence
during pregnancy, an estimated 10% of pregnant women still
drink, which is close to the estimated world average.
‘Worldwide, an estimated 119,000 children are born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) each year, revealed a new study.’
Although it's well established that alcohol can damage any organ or
system in the developing fetus, particularly the brain, it's still not
known exactly what makes a fetus most susceptible, in terms of the
amount or frequency of alcohol use, or timing of drinking during
pregnancy. Other factors, such as the genetics, stress, smoking and
nutrition also contribute to the risk of developing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).
Nearly 15 per 10,000 people around the world are estimated to have Fetal Alcohol
Syndrome (FAS), the most severe form of FASD. FAS
is characterized by mental, behavioral and learning problems, as well
as physical disabilities. In Canada, the estimate is 10.5 cases of FAS
per 10,000 people.
Not every woman who drinks while pregnant will have a child with
Worldwide, an estimated 119,000 children are born with Fetal Alcohol
Syndrome (FAS) each year, a new study from the Center for Addiction and
Mental Health (CAMH) shows.
The study, published in The Lancet Global Health
provides the first-ever estimates of the proportion of women who drink
during pregnancy, as well as estimates of FAS by country, World Health
Organization (WHO) region and worldwide.
"We estimated that one in 67 mothers who drink during pregnancy
will deliver a child with FAS," says lead author Dr. Svetlana Popova,
Senior Scientist in CAMH's Institute for Mental Health Policy Research.
She notes that this figure is very conservative and does not include
other types of FASD that may occur from alcohol consumption during
pregnancy, including partial FAS (pFAS) and Alcohol-related
Neurodevelopmental Disorders (ARND).
"The safest thing to do is to completely abstain from alcohol during the entire pregnancy," says Dr. Popova.
The study involved comprehensive literature reviews and statistical
analyses to determine the estimates, which are intended to help
countries plan public health initiatives and policies, such as FAS
surveillance systems and educational efforts on the risks of alcohol use
during pregnancy, the researchers note.
The five countries with the highest alcohol use in pregnancy were in
Europe: Russia, United Kingdom, Denmark, Belarus and Ireland. As a
region, Europe also had a 2.6 higher prevalence of FAS than the global
average. The lowest levels of drinking and FAS were found for the
Eastern Mediterranean and South East Asia regions, as there are high
rates of alcohol abstinence in these regions.
The predictive model that the research team developed in this study
could also be used to estimate the prevalence of other disease
conditions, notes Dr. Popova. Her team is currently extending this work
to study the global scale of all fetal alcohol spectrum disorders
(FASD). An earlier study by Dr. Popova and her team, published in The
Lancet last year, showed that more than 400 disease conditions co-occur