Alcohol consumption during pregnancy

The consumption of alcohol is widespread within Australia and entwined with many social and cultural activities. Alcohol consumption in pregnancy can lead to poorer perinatal outcomes including low birthweight, being small for gestational age, pre-term birth and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) (NHMRC 2020).

FASD refers to a range of adverse physical, learning and behavioural effects after exposure to alcohol during pregnancy, with issues occurring into childhood and adult life (NHMRC 2020).

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) advises that women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy should not drink alcohol (NHMRC 2020). Support to address alcohol consumption is widely available through antenatal clinics.

Data on maternal consumption of alcohol during pregnancy were available for the first time in 2019. Data exclude New South Wales and South Australia.

The figure shows proportions of women by alcohol consumption status in the first twenty weeks of pregnancy by a range of topics including state and territory of birth, indigenous status and maternal age. In 2019, less than 5% of women in reporting jurisdictions reported consuming alcohol in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The vast majority of women did not report consuming alcohol in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy or after 20 weeks—ranging from 95% to 100% for the 6 jurisdictions reported in 2019.

The proportion of women who did report consuming alcohol in the first 20 weeks decreased after 20 weeks of pregnancy (from a range of 0.3% to 4.9% in the first 20 weeks, down to a range of 0.1% to 1.7% after 20 weeks).

Women were more likely to consume alcohol in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy if they were:

  • Teenage mothers (aged under 20) (3.5%)
  • Indigenous (9.1%)
  • Lived in Remote (5.9%) or Very remote (9.2%) areas

Women were also more likely to consume alcohol after 20 weeks of pregnancy if they were Indigenous and lived in Remote or Very remote areas.

References

NHMRC (National Health and Medical Research Council) 2020. Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol. Canberra: NHMCR. Viewed 18 January 2021.Canberra: NHMCR. Viewed 18 January 2021.