Prevention of FASD through Preconception Conversations

In our work on FASD prevention, reaching women on the topic of the effects of alcohol use before they are pregnant is a much needed component. Yet when offering a continuum of perinatal and reproductive care, our health care systems usually do not make preconception health a priority. It is indeed a challenge to promote critical thinking about alcohol use in pregnancy when women a) are not yet actively planning a pregnancy,  b) are unaware, misinformed or unconcerned about of the effects of alcohol, or c) are acutely aware of the stigma associated with drinking alcohol in pregnancy and resistant to hearing the message.

In a recent article for the UK journal, International Journal of Birth and Parent Education, we described what is known about empowering and effective preconception health interventions, to catalyse and support the work of health care practitioners working with women of childbearing years.

We entitled the article “Beyond Screening” as it is important to enter discussions about alcohol use in pregnancy as conversations that reduce stigma and support critical thinking about alcohol use before, during, and after pregnancy.

In a section of the article entitled “Issues and Actions Needed” we offered 8 key considerations when offering preconception education and support on substance use issues:

  1. moving beyond screening – Asking about what women know about effects of substance use in pregnancy and what their plans are, may be more engaging and helpful to open conversations, rather than starting with formal screening questions
  2. reducing stigma – By naming how stigma and fears of judgement may be a barrier, health care providers can build an open relationship with women that facilitates safety and empowerment
  3. involving women – In the context of substance use by women overall, and in pregnancy, where judgement, bias, discrimination, misinformation and stigma are rampant, it is particularly important to involve women respectfully and collaboratively in defining what works for them
  4. involving men/partners– Involving partners in preconception and prenatal care, messaging, and support can be an important strategy for reducing the weight of pregnancy planning for women, and for improving overall health.
  5. using technology – Web-based support on substance use issues is increasingly available to extend the reach and engagement by the public in early and accessible assistance. Sharing where such information is available, supports the seeking of assistance in an anonymous and self determining way
  6. building on practitioner wisdom and relationships – Motivational Interviewing and other evidence informed practices are already being used by many practitioners for guiding conversations on substance use that are trauma informed, harm reduction oriented and strengths based. These approaches are highly relevant in conversations about substance use before, during and following pregnancy, and can be best ‘heard’ in conversations with trusted providers. 
  7. multi-tasking – The benefits and reach of dual focus preconception interventions (that involve discussion of substance use with other health issues) are important. Integrating discussion of how alcohol may be a factor linked with nutrition, mental wellness, prevention of intimate partner violence and/or housing can be helpful, and respectful of women’s interests.
  8. embedding preconception conversations in multiple systems of care – It is vital that preconception care be well integrated in health, social, and community care, with many types of practitioners all playing a role.

We are appreciative of being asked to revisit what we know about preconception interventions, and see it as important for everyone to ask of their communities and countries:

  • Who is doing preconception interventions on alcohol and other substance use?
  • In what additional contexts can preconception health and substance use issues be raised?
  • How can we promote gender and other forms of equity as we are doing preconception interventions on substance use?
  • What does each practitioner need to support action on this level of FASD prevention?

Preconception Care to Optimize Health

Harm reduction and health promotion for women and their partners before conception are key to FASD prevention [1]. Providing health information and supports during the preconception period provides an opportunity for men and women to actively plan for a healthy pregnancy and learn strategies such as healthy nutrition, supplementation, and reducing alcohol and other substance use [2]. Such education and support can contribute greatly to optimizing health and preventing FASD [3].

Around the world, there are examples of unique approaches to preventing alcohol exposed pregnancies. Some interventions are geared towards women and men separately, and others are gender synchronized, creating complimentary programs for men, women, boys, and girls. Interventions may also include both members of a couple and include training for healthcare professionals.

Credit: Pretestie Bestie campaign.

Websites, such as Healthy Families BC and the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada have pages offer information about alcohol use during pregnancy and clear and concise steps to consider before becoming pregnant. The recent ThinkFASD website sponsored by the CanFASD Research Network offers advice both for couples who are consciously planning a pregnancy, and those who are drinking and having unprotected sex. Other websites are interactive, such as Alberta Health Services’ Ready or Not, which allows a woman to click through different resources and prompts based on whether or not she feels ready to become pregnant. Don’t Know? Don’t Drink is a creative campaign in New Zealand, which posts fun, engaging graphics and videos to their social media platforms with messages about using contraception and supporting friends to not drink if there’s a chance they might be pregnant. The campaign caters to younger girls and encourages finding a “Pretestie Bestie”, a friend who supports you and your decision making before getting a pregnancy test, as a strategy of FASD prevention.

Interventions in the preconception period are not limited to women. Paternal drinking can impact men’s safety, sperm health, fetal/infant health, and women’s ability to reduce their alcohol use [4]. Various programs have been geared towards men’s education about contraception options, reproductive health, and how to support partners in their efforts to reduce drinking before and during pregnancy. Project Alpha is an American collaboration aimed at educating boys age 12 to 15 about fatherhood, contraception, healthy relationships, and sexuality.

MenCare+ empowers men to be active and positive participants in their own health as well as the health of their partners and children.  It has been implemented in Brazil, Indonesia, Rwanda, and South Africa and has been shown to reduce intimate partner violence in its participants, which is an important contributing factor to women’s substance use during pregnancy [5]. In addition to programming for men, MenCare also offers workshops and training for healthcare professionals on engaging men in maternal and child health.

The internet has been a preferred source of information when it comes to preconception [6] and for couples who know they want to have children, web-based interventions are helpful tools. The UK’s Smarter Pregnancy program helps couples build a profile through an online health assessment and then offers evidence-based recommendations based on their profile. A similar approach is taken by HealthyMoms and HealthyDads complimentary websites, which were created after asking expectant moms and dads what  information and supports they need to prepare for parenthood.

Culturally safe and non-judgemental interventions have been shown to be effective in reducing the risk of alcohol exposed pregnancies [7]. In the US, CHOICES and Amor Y Salud are interventions geared towards Indigenous and Latinx communities. CHOICES educates non-pregnant at-risk women about contraceptive options and uses motivational interviewing to support women to reduce drinking. Amor Y Salud, available through the Oregon Health Authority Website, offers a radionovela that follows a young couple as they learn how to optimize their health and prepare for future children. In Canada, Best Start’s website has a page for Indigenous prenatal health with information and resources that integrates Indigenous knowledge with Western health information. They also provide resources, such as Planning for Change, to support healthcare providers in educating their patients about FASD and supporting them in making meaningful changes.

The variety of preconception education and support approaches illustrates opportunities for incorporating these initiatives across the various levels of reproductive health. Childbearing years span four decades for women and are longer for men, and interventions have and can continue to focus on those that are planning or not yet planning a pregnancy, as well as for those in the period before a pregnancy is confirmed. When such preconception and early pregnancy supports are well incorporated throughout the healthcare system, this key component of FASD prevention can be realized.

1. Network Action Team on FASD Prevention. (2010). Consensus on 10 fundamental components of FASD prevention from a women’s health determinants perspective. Canada Northwest FASD Research Network.

2. The Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health. (2016). Preconception Interventions Alcohol and Contraception Example. Schmidt, R., Hemsing, N., & Poole, N. Retrieved from http://en.beststart.org/sites/en.beststart.org/files/u4/PC3-Preconception-Interventions-Poole.pdf

3. Webb, Shelby, and Diane Foley. “An Introduction to the Optimal Health Model for Family Planning Clinicians.” National Clinical Training Center for Family Planning, 17 Feb. 2020, http://www.ctcfp.org/optimal-health-podcast/.

4. McBride, N. and S. Johnson, Fathers’ role in alcohol-exposed pregnancies: Systematic review of human studies. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2016

5. Alhusen JL, Ray E, Sharps P, Bullock L. Intimate partner violence during pregnancy: maternal and neonatal outcomes. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2015 Jan;24(1):100-6. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2014.4872. Epub 2014 Sep 29. PMID: 25265285; PMCID: PMC4361157.

6. Da Costa D, Zelkowitz P, Bailey K, Cruz R, Bernard JC, Dasgupta K, Lowensteyn I, Khalifé S. Results of a Needs Assessment to Guide the Development of a Website to Enhance Emotional Wellness and Healthy Behaviors During Pregnancy. J Perinat Educ. 2015;24(4):213-24. doi: 10.1891/1058-1243.24.4.213. PMID: 26834443; PMCID: PMC4718007.

7. Hanson, J., & Pourier, S. (2015). The Oglala Sioux Tribe CHOICES Program: Modifying an Existing Alcohol-Exposed Pregnancy Intervention for Use in an American Indian Community. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 13(1), 1. doi:10.3390/ijerph13010001


Holistic and specialized support for pregnant women: Level 3 prevention

FASD ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY 2015, PART 3

FASD Prevention: An Annotated Bibliography of Articles Published in 2015 organizes articles based on the four levels of prevention. 2015 BibliographyWe’ve been featuring some of those articles and in this post we narrow in on Level 3 FASD prevention efforts – specialized holistic support available to pregnant women with alcohol and other health or social problems. Following are a few of the bibliography articles with that research focus.

Two studies from South Africa underscore the interconnections of alcohol use in pregnancy and the benefits of integrated and holistic services for pregnant women. A large study done in Cape Town, randomly assigned all pregnant women in 24 low-income neighbourhoods either to standard care or to a home-visiting intervention. In total over 1,000 mothers were assessed during pregnancy and at 18 and 36 months post-partum with positive findings for those receiving the home-visiting intervention. 4-levels-fasd-preventionThe authors find that a significant relationship exists over time between alcohol use, partner violence and depression, and they recommend integrated interventions [1]. Similarly, a case management intervention for 67 pregnant women using Motivational Interviewing, Community Reinforcement Approach and life management reduced heavy drinking in pregnancy [2].

Marcellus, MacKinnon et al. through their work with the HerWay program in BC, Canada, “reenvision” success when working with pregnant women with problematic substance use. They identify a holistic range of indicators for success, not only for program participants, but for service providers, community partners and system leaders [3]. This kind of harm-reduction model is getting more attention in the USA. Kramlich & Kronk reviewed six such programs over the last 10 years and conclude that “comprehensive, integrated multidisciplinary services for pregnant women with substance use disorder aimed at harm reduction are showing positive results.”[4]

Torchalla, Linden et al. conducted interviews in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, Canada, with 27 pregnant or post-partum women seeking harm-reduction services. They found that multiple forms of trauma were pervasive, ongoing, and reinforced in most areas of the women’s lives. Yet, most of the women did not want trauma-specific counseling when offered it. This underscores, according to the authors, the need for multi-focused, trauma-informed, harm-reduction interventions that broaden their focus to include gender-based violence and human rights [5].

Whitaker provides an overview of the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines on substance use during pregnancy [6]. The author identifies some of the limitations of the guidelines including effectiveness of varying treatment approaches, knowledge gaps, and ethical issues, yet calls the guidance essential reading for practitioners working with women, children and families where substance use is involved.

Findings show that relational, holistic/integrated, and trauma-informed approaches are effective ways to support substance using women and their families. Yet, training, education and support of practitioners who work with them are vital. Additionally, more research in a number of specific areas is needed.

Find out more about these journal articles as well as articles for all four levels of FASD prevention in The Annotated Bibliography.

REFERENCES

  1. Rotheram-Borus, M.J., et al., Alcohol use, partner violence, and depression: A cluster randomized controlled trial among urban South African mothers over 3 years. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2015. 49(5): p. 715-725.
  2. de Vries, M.M., et al., Indicated Prevention of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders in South Africa: Effectiveness of Case Management. International Journal Of Environmental Research And Public Health, 2015. 13(1).
  3. Marcellus, L., et al., Reenvisioning success for programs supporting pregnant women with problematic substance use. Qualitative Health Research, 2015. 25(4): p. 500-512.
  4. Kramlich, D. and R. Kronk, Relational care for perinatal substance use: A systematic review. MCN, the American Journal of Maternal Child Nursing, 2015. 40(5): p. 320-326.
  5. Torchalla, I., et al., “Like a lots happened with my whole childhood”: violence, trauma, and addiction in pregnant and postpartum women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Harm Reduction Journal, 2015. 12(1): p. 1-10.
  6. Whittaker, A., Guidelines for the Identification and Management of Substance Use and Substance Use Disorders in Pregnancy. Drug & Alcohol Review, 2015. 34(3): p. 340-341.

Preconception Interventions – Trending or Mainstream?

FASD Annotated Bibliography, Part 2

2015-12-Life-of-Pix-free-stock-photos-city-distributors-newspapers-AlexisDoyenIt seems more attention is being brought to preconception health and its role in FASD prevention.  We have known about the value of preconception intervention for many years. The Project CHOICES Research Group described positive intervention results using Motivational Interviewing in 2003 [1]. Yet now attention to the preconception period seems to be “trending.”

Preconception intervention has been discussed all along (we were asking about it in a landmark study in the ‘90s[2]), but the recent actions like U.S. CDC recommendations and Yukon’s placement of pregnancy tests in bars are certainly highlighting preconception alcohol use and health behaviours. The current Annotated Bibliography of articles published on FASD prevention seems to bear this recent focus out:., there were a total of five articles on preconception efforts in the 2013 list; and in articles published in 2015, that number has doubled.

In the latest annotated list, Landeen et al. says that the “fetal origin of disease theory” provides the rationale for providing preconception interventions[3]. Johnson et al. describe the development and dissemination of the CHOICES model[4] and its successful adaptation in a variety of settings. Hanson et al. have written three articles that expand on the work they did adapting and implementing a CHOICES program with the Oglala Sioux Tribe in the U.S.[5-7]. Analyses by Hussein et al.[8], Mitra et al.[9] and Oza-Frank et al.[10] suggest that preconception interventions must be tailored if they are to be successful. McBride stresses the need for preconception counseling for men, as substance use during pregnancy is not solely a decision made by women or under their control [11].

2015 Bibliography
2015 FASD Prevention Bibliography

Members of the pNAT are currently undertaking a review of the literature on preconception interventions and formulating recommendations for a national research agenda. They will present some of these recommendations at the research meeting in August at the University of Regina (See www.canfasd.ca for more info on this meeting).

In keeping with our understanding of multiple forms of evidence, we are interested in knowing what you are seeing and hearing about preconception interventions on alcohol. Has preconception intervention been a part of your practice for a while? Who is funded to provide it in your location? What has worked, and how has it worked, in your experience?

For further reading on preconception interventions, see earlier postings:

Alcohol and FASD: It’s not just about women, June 6, 2016
FASD Prevention needs to begin before pregnancy: Findings from the US National Survey on Family Growth, May 20, 2015
Global Trends in Unintended Pregnancy: Implications for FASD Prevention, October 13, 2014
Impact Evaluation of the Healthy, Empowered and Resilient (H.E.R.) Pregnancy Program in Edmonton, Alberta, February 7, 2014
FASD Prevention in Nova Scotia, April 25, 2013
The Sacred Journey – new resource for service providers who work with First Nations families, August 1, 2012
FASD Prevention in Russia, February 15, 2012
New book: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: Management and Policy Perspectives of FASD, Jan 6, 2011


REFERENCES/SUGGESTED READING

  1. Reducing the risk of alcohol-exposed pregnancies: A study of a motivational intervention in community settings. Pediatrics, 2003. 111(Supplement 1): p. 1131-1135.
  2. Astley, S.J., et al., Fetal Alcohol Syndrome primary prevention through FAS Diagnosis II, A comprehensive profile of 80 birth mothers of children with FAS Alcohol and Alcoholism, 2000. 35(5): p. 509-519.
  3. Landeen, L.B., R. Bogue, and M. Schuneman, Preconception and prenatal care–useful tools for providers of women’s health. South Dakota Medicine: The Journal Of The South Dakota State Medical Association, 2015. Spec No: p. 36-43.
  4. Johnson, S.K., M.M. Velasquez, and K. von Sternberg, CHOICES: An empirically supported intervention for preventing alcohol-exposed pregnancy in community settings. Research on Social Work Practice, 2015. 25(4): p. 488-492.
  5. Hanson, J.D., K. Ingersoll, and S. Pourier, Development and implementation of choices group to reduce drinking, improve contraception, and prevent alcohol-exposed pregnancies in American Indian women. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 2015.
  6. Hanson, J. and J. Jensen, Importance of Social Support in Preventing Alcohol-Exposed Pregnancies with American Indian Communities. Journal of Community Health, 2015. 40(1): p. 138-146 9p.
  7. Hanson, J.D. and S. Pourier, The Oglala Sioux Tribe CHOICES Program: Modifying an Existing Alcohol-Exposed Pregnancy Intervention for Use in an American Indian Community. International Journal Of Environmental Research And Public Health, 2015. 13(1).
  8. Hussein, N., J. Kai, and N. Qureshi, The effects of preconception interventions on improving reproductive health and pregnancy outcomes in primary care: A systematic review. The European Journal Of General Practice, 2015: p. 1-11.
  9. Mitra, M., et al., Disparities in adverse preconception risk factors between women with and without disabilities. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 2015.
  10. Oza-Frank, R., et al., Provision of specific preconception care messages and associated maternal health behaviors before and during pregnancy. American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, 2015. 212(3): p. 372.e1-372.e8.
  11. McBride, N., Paternal involvement in alcohol exposure during pre-conception and pregnancy. Australian Nursing & Midwifery Journal, 2015. 22(10): p. 51-51.

The work of the Network Action Team on FASD Prevention from a Women’s Health Determinants Perspective (CanFASD Research Network)

 

FASD Conference 2
Marsha Wilson, Nancy Poole and Dorothy Badry at the 7th National Biennial Conference on Adolescents and Adults with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Session E3: Developments in Prevention of FASD – The Work of the Can FASD Prevention Network Action Team

At the 7th National Biennial Conference on Adolescents and Adults with FASD in Vancouver on April 9, 2016, Nancy Poole and Dorothy Badry described the work of CanFASD’s Prevention Network Action Team (pNAT).  They provided examples of the pNAT’s work on:

  1. Network building – Sharing expertise and skills through a network of researchers, policy analysts, clinicians, community-based service providers and advocates dedicated to FASD prevention
  2. Research – Building multidisciplinary research teams, developing research proposals, and conducting research
  3. Collaborative knowledge exchange – Developing and implementing strategies for moving “research into action” such as through workshops, curricula development for health and social service professionals, and policy analysis
  4. Influencing policy and service provision  Guiding service and policy improvements with governments and communities

Given the conference focus on adolescents and adults with FASD, the 2011 research led by pNAT member Deborah Rutman on prevention with girls and women with FASD and substance use problems was highlighted.   Treatment and support with girls and women who live with FASD is one of the least researched areas of FASD prevention.

A list of FASD prevention resource materials developed by pNAT members was provided. Reports and infographics that summarize research, and thereby support research-to-practice and -policy are included below.

LINKS

7th National Biennial Conference on Adolescents and Adults with FASD

Research on prevention with girls and women with FASD

CanFASD  – description of the pNAT

FASD Prevention Resources Spring 2016

FASD Resources

Learning about FASD Training Package for Post-Secondary Instructors

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Developed by the Saskatchewan Prevention Institute, the FASD Training Package for Post-Secondary Instructors is a resource  for post-secondary instructors and professors.

The focus of the resource is on understanding and preventing FASD. It can be used to provide information and education about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) to students enrolled in professional programs leading to a career working with women of child bearing age.

Examples of programs include that this resource might be helpful for include: health care, education, justice, addictions, psychology, social work, and other community services’ programs (e.g., Early Childhood Education, Disability Support Worker, and Correctional Studies.)

The teaching package contains 11 modules with references. These modules provide evidence-based information on topics such as “What is FASD”, “Alcohol, Women, and Pregnancy”, “Prevention of FASD”, and “Primary and Secondary Disabilities”.

A downloadable PowerPoint with teaching notes is ready for use in class. Both the PowerPoint and written modules contain case studies, activities, and discussion questions that may be used with any group.

Download the package from the Saskatchewan Prevention Institute’s website.

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Impact Evaluation Findings from Project Choices in Manitoba

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Project CHOICES is a program in Winnipeg, Manitoba, that works with girls and women of any age who are not currently pregnant, drink alcohol, and are sexually active. The goal of the program is to reduce the risk of an alcohol-exposed pregnancy through choosing healthy behaviours around alcohol and birth control use.

This infographic summarizes changes for participants three months after completing the program.

Project CHOICES is based on motivational interviewing which is a counseling approach that is respectful, non-judgmental and client-centred. Motivational interviewing allows health care providers and clients to explore possible areas of change, discuss strategies that make sense for the client and their life circumstances, and provides encouragement and support.

The program considers three different routes to reducing the risk of an alcohol-exposed pregnancy: (1) reducing alcohol use (2) using effective contraception (3) reducing alcohol use and using effective contraception.

Learn more about the evaluation from Healthy Child Manitoba. Check out the program website to learn more about the program, how to make a referral, and for resources on alcohol, pregnancy and birth control.

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The Prevention Conversation Project – Free Webcast on January 21, 2015 (Alberta FASD Learning Series)

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The Alberta FASD Learning Series helps individuals with FASD and their caregivers to learn more about FASD and how to support a person with FASD. The webcast and videoconference educational sessions cover a broad range of topics that target both urban and rural audiences.

On January 21, 2015 (9-11am), the topic in the series will be The Prevention Conversation Project. The aim of this project is to support open and non-judgemental conversations with women and their support systems about alcohol and pregnancy.

For registration information and more information about the learning series, visit the Alberta FASD website here.

Learn more about The Prevention Conversation on the Edmonton and area Fetal Alcohol Network Society website here.

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Planning and Implementing Screening and Brief Intervention for Risky Alcohol Use: A Step-by-Step Guide for Primary Care Practices from the CDC

Planning and Implementing Screening and Brief Intervention for Risky Alcohol Use -

This new resource from the Centers for Disease Control in the United States describes alcohol screening and brief intervention as a “critical clinical preventive service.”

Alcohol screening and brief intervention identifies and helps patients who may be drinking too much. It involves:

  1. A validated set of screening questions to identify patients’ drinking patterns
  2. A short conversation with patients who are drinking too much, and for patients with severe risk, a referral with a wide range of other health and social problems, to specialized treatment as warranted

This guide is designed to help an individual or small planning team in a variety of primary care settings to adapt alcohol screening and brief interventions to their unique operational realities. It provides a series of steps to help plan, implement, and continually improve alcohol screening and brief interventions as a routine element of standard practice.

Discussion of alcohol use during pregnancy and FASD can be found throughout the guide.

For more on screening in primary care settings, see previous posts:

 

 

 

Free Webinar: Trauma Informed Approaches to FASD Prevention – June 12, 2014

Learning Series Flyer 3c

Over the past year, the BC Ministry of Health in collaboration with the BC Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health has been supporting educational sessions in Health Authorities across British Columbia for service providers who have the opportunity to engage with women of childbearing age on alcohol use during pregnancy and related concerns.

Service providers have included: nurses, pregnancy outreach program providers, transition housing/violence service workers, social workers, doulas, midwives, physicians, mental health workers and substance use service providers working in both Aboriginal and other communities.

Current or past experiences of trauma and violence can be a major reason why women continue to drink alcohol during pregnancy. The third webinar in this series will examine trauma-informed approaches to FASD prevention. (For more on alcohol, pregnancy and trauma-informed practice, check out this section of the Coalescing on Women and Substance use website)

Thursday, June 12, 2014
9:00 – 10:00 am (PDT)
Presenters: Nancy Poole, Cristine Urquhart, Frances Jasiura

To register, visit http://fluidsurveys.com/s/A-Learning-Series-3

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