Actionable research! Reflecting on 5 years of FASD prevention research

Click here to listen to the blog (2:37).

Last month, the Journal of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) released a special collection of articles about FASD prevention, diagnosis, intervention and support. The journal issue features the work of Canada Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Research Network staff, Research Leads, Family Advisory Committee (FAC) members, Adults with FASD Expert Collaboration Team (AFECT) members, trainees, board members, and community partners and collaborators. 

As part of the special issue, researchers from the Prevention Network Action Team contributed an article entitled At a Juncture: Exploring Patterns and Trends in FASD Prevention Research from 2015 – 2021 Using the Four-Part Model of Prevention. This article leverages off our annual annotated bibliographies, to identify trends in FASD prevention research over the six-year period.

From 2015 – 2020, n = 532 articles were identified that addressed:

  1. the prevalence and influences on alcohol use during pregnancy, 
  2. interventions at each of the Four-Part Prevention Model, and 
  3. systemic, destigmatizing, and ethical considerations. 

The majority of the research was from the United States (n = 216), Canada (n = 91), the United Kingdom (n = 60), and Australia (n = 58).

While the literature continues to have a heavy focus on the prevalence and influences on alcohol use during pregnancy, a trend could be seen towards research on evidence-based interventions which support positive health outcomes for women and their children.

  • Across both Level 1 and Level 2 prevention, there was an emphasis on the role of technology and its importance in disseminating education and messaging about alcohol use in pregnancy and FASD. 
  • Attention to Levels 3 and 4 demonstrated the importance of multi-service, trauma-informed, relational, and holistic approaches in supporting women and their children. 
  • While women’s voices were increasingly represented in the literature, further efforts are required to amplify their voices and address stigma. 

This review synthesized the current evidence and demonstrated how the work on FASD prevention has expanded in the recent years to reflect the nuance and interconnectedness of the Four-Part Prevention Model. The opportunities for prevention through research and evidenced-informed practice and policy are unlimited. We used the title “At a Juncture” as now we can definitely see a critical mass of research evidence on FASD prevention that can support practice and policy action related to awareness raising, brief support, wrap-around support, stigma reduction and change to alcohol policy!

FASD Prevention: An Annotated Bibliography of Articles Published in 2021

This year’s Annotated Bibliography of Articles Published in 2021 was just released and includes 99 articles from 21 countries.

Researchers associated with the Prevention Network Action Team (pNAT) of the Canada FASD Research Network search the academic literature for articles related to alcohol use in pregnancy and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) prevention. Articles are reviewed for relevancy, identified by topic and country, and the findings are summarized.

Countries with the highest number of articles published were the US (36 articles), Canada (17 articles), and the UK (13 articles). The findings were organized using a four-part prevention model used by the pNAT to describe the wide range of work that comprises FASD prevention. This year, 35 articles described the prevalence, influences, and factors associated with alcohol use in pregnancy, nine articles described Level 1 prevention efforts, 26 articles described Level 2 prevention efforts, 7 articles described Level 3 prevention efforts, 8 articles described Level 4 prevention articles, and 17 articles described stigma, ethical issues, and systemic approaches.

In this collection of articles can be seen an increase in attention to women’s views and experiences. For example, a systematic review of qualitative research exploring the barriers and facilitators that influence alcohol reduction, abstention, and use in pregnancy found that social norms and relationships, stigma, trauma and other stressors, alcohol information and messaging and access to trusted and equitable care and resources greatly impacted women’s alcohol use and that structural and systemic factors related to alcohol use were widely underexplored. Another article explored how women make decisions about alcohol use given the conflict information, controversy, and stigma associated with light and moderate prenatal alcohol consumption. The authors found that women’s decisions were influenced by the consistency of messaging they received, their social position relative to the source of information, and the strength of the relationship to the person providing information.

The annual literature search is intended to update those involved in FASD prevention in Canada (and beyond), so that their practice and policy work may be informed by current evidence. The members of the pNAT also have the opportunity in monthly web meetings to discuss the implications of the findings for their work. You can access previous annotated bibliographies from CanFASD’s prevention page or by clicking on the “Maternal Health & Substance Use” topic on the CEWH publications page.

Click here to read FASD Prevention: An Annotated Bibliography of Articles Published in 2021.

Click here to read the Executive Summary.

Accessing Research to Inform our Practice and Policy

Our annual annotated list of research articles on FASD prevention is now available!

As in past years, we searched academic databases for articles about FASD prevention published in English over the past calendar year (in this case between January and December 2020). We organized the articles using the four-level prevention framework, so that those involved in FASD prevention can easily find and consider how to integrate current evidence relevant to their practice and policy work. 

This year, one hundred and three (n =103) articles were included, coming from 19 countries/regions.

  • 37 articles explored the prevalence of, and influences and factors associated with, alcohol use during pregnancy. Some factors influencing alcohol use in pregnancy described in these articles included depression, partners’ alcohol use, awareness of alcohol harms, awareness of pregnancy status, adverse childhood experiences, availability of support networks, concurrent tobacco smoking, and density of alcohol establishments.
  • 3 articles only focussed on awareness raising (Level 1).
  • 33 articles described aspects of brief intervention, education and support with women in childbearing years and their support networks (Level 2). Mixed results are still seen for brief interventions, but for some subgroups of women and dual interventions (alcohol + contraception) benefits were found.
  • 12 articles explored specialized, holistic support of pregnant women with alcohol and other health and social problems (Level 3), showing the importance of access to these programs and the need for collaboration in their delivery.
  • 7 articles described postpartum treatment and support approaches for new mothers and their children (Level 4), and promising approaches were described that included trauma informed and culturally grounded parenting programs.
  • 14 articles addressed overarching issues such as the impact of stigma, ethical issues and needed systemic approaches.

We encourage all those interested in FASD prevention to check out the articles for the area of FASD where they work, and in other areas of interest. We look forward to discussing key articles in the Prevention Network Action Team (pNAT) monthly web meetings as well. 

Just published: 2019 edition of FASD Prevention Annotated Bibliography

AnnBib cover 2018Researchers associated with the Prevention Network Action Team (pNAT) of the CanFASD Research Network search the academic literature each year for articles related to prevention of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). Articles are reviewed for relevancy, identified by topic and country, and the findings briefly summarized. This year’s Annotated Bibliography of Articles Published in 2018 was published in time for the 8th International Conference on FASD in March. A total of 58 articles were identified from 17 countries. The number of articles varies each year based on journal articles published in English about ongoing or new research on FASD prevention research. Countries with highest number of published articles in 2018 were USA (26 articles), Canada (9 articles), the UK and Ireland (6 articles), and Australia and South Africa (5 articles each). 

Findings are organized using a four-level prevention framework used by the pNAT to describe the wide range of work that comprises FASD prevention (see panel at left for more information). This year 15 articles pertained to Influences on women’s drinking;  12 articles pertained to Level 2, discussion of alcohol use with women and their support networks; and, 11 articles pertained to Level 3, specialized and holistic support of pregnant women. Articles pertaining to Level 1 and Prevalence of alcohol use in pregnancy were also well represented. Some articles are assigned to more than one category.

4-levels-fasd-prevention
Figure 1: Four Levels of FASD Prevention

The annual literature search is intended to update those involved in FASD prevention in Canada, to inform their practice and policy work with current evidence. The members of the pNAT also have the opportunity to discuss the implications for their work of the findings of selected articles, in monthly web meetings.

Find earlier Annotated Bibliographies below and on the CanFASD Prevention page under “Bibliographies”.

Using e-technology to support maternal-child health

The Hope Project app
With most everyone having a smartphone these days, people are using apps to support their health. There are a few apps directed to pregnant women about their substance use and mental health. Some recent efforts developed together by researchers and health providers show how these apps can be used to offer focused information and support to pregnant women.

A perinatal mental health research project in Alberta, The Hope Project, is exploring how e-technology can be used to support pregnant women with mental health concerns. Dr. Dawn Kingston and her team at the University of Calgary developed an app for screening and treating pregnant women experiencing anxiety and depression. It provides information, support, and help to women in the research study whenever they need it. The project will also look at how this intervention affects post-partum depression and the health of their children.

SmartMom Canada, was developed as part of a study from the University of British Columbia. Through text messaging, Optimal Birth BC provides women in Northern BC with prenatal education endorsed by the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC). Many of these women live in rural areas and may have limited access to prenatal care. Women who enroll in the study complete a confidential survey and then receive personalized text messages that include pregnancy tips, info on health topics, and available resources in their own community.

SmartMom Canada app
Women outside of these studies may find it challenging to find similar apps. Popular pregnancy apps do not offer much info or ideas for resources for women with mental health or substance use issues. One that has been positively evaluated is Text4baby in the U.S. The sponsors partner with national, state, and private organizations and offer local resource information in some states. Also available to Spanish speakers, an evaluation of the app can be found here.

As well, apps are being targeted to health care providers on improving the care they provide. A preconception care app available to physicians provides them with information from the National Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative and makes suggestions for responding to patient questions. Research is being done on using an app to provide motivational interviewing interventions to pregnant women who use substances.

Most apps available on smartphones are directed toward the general population and seek a large user base. Mental health apps and substance use apps that might support prevention, are not designed specifically for women, pregnant or not. And most pregnancy apps focus on fetal growth and “kick counters”, the woman’s weight and blood pressure, and checklists to get ready for a child.

So, while there is an app for everything, they may not an app for everyone. However, healthcare technology is growing at a fast pace, so hopefully we will see more apps in future that can expand FASD prevention efforts.

Related topics:

TEXT4BABY PROGRAM IN THE UNITED STATES: CAN TEXT MESSAGING BE AN EFFECTIVE ALCOHOL BRIEF INTERVENTION? February 2, 2015

HEALTHY PREGNANCY, HEALTHY BABY TEXT MESSAGING SERVICE IN TANZANIA December 17, 2013

New Annotated Bibliography of 2017 Articles on FASD Prevention

Each year since 2013, researchers associated with the Prevention Network Action Team (pNAT) of the CanFASD Research Network search the academic literature for articles related to prevention of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). Articles are reviewed for relevancy, identified by topic and country, and the findings briefly summarized. For this year’s Annotated Bibliography of Articles Published in 2017, a total of 113 articles were identified from 17 countries. Countries with highest number of published articles were USA, (51 articles) Canada (26 articles), Australia (10 articles).

Findings are organized using a four-level prevention framework used by the pNAT to describe the wide range of work that comprises FASD prevention (see panel at left for more information). This year a record 32 articles pertained to Level 2 which involves discussion of alcohol use with all women of childbearing age and their partners/support systems. Articles pertaining to Prevalence of alcohol use in pregnancy, Influences on women’s drinking, and Preconception interventions were also well represented.

The annual literature search is intended to update those involved in FASD prevention in Canada, to inform their practice and policy work with current evidence. The members of the pNAT also have the opportunity to discuss the implications for their work of the findings of selected articles, in monthly web meetings.

Find earlier Annotated Bibliographies below and on the CanFASD Prevention page under “Bibliographies”.


FASD Prevention: An Annotated Bibliography of articles published in 2016

FASD Prevention: An Annotated Bibliography of articles published in 2015

FASD Prevention: An Annotated Bibliography of articles published in 2014

FASD Prevention: An Annotated Bibliography of articles published in 2013

Could prevention efforts be enhanced by study of postnatal clinical interventions designed to reverse FASD-related learning deficits?

Using animal models, scientists at Northwestern University in Chicago were able to reverse learning and memory deficits resulting from exposure to alcohol in utero. The scientists administered thyroxine (a hormone that is reduced in pregnant women who drink and in infants with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder) or metformin (an insulin sensitizing drug that lowers blood sugar levels, which is higher in alcoholics) to rat pups exposed to alcohol in utero, in the 10 days immediately after they were born.  Based on these findings, they will conduct a clinical trial with pregnant women in South Africa.

Dr. Eva Redei, one of the scientists involved in the study believes that such options are necessary for women with alcohol use disorders, or those who drink before they know they are pregnant. In a recent newspaper interview, Dr. James Reynolds at Queen’s University in Canada said he doubts that this will be a cure for FASD, but that studies like this one could give us more clues as to how alcohol affects development.

Other important voices are community-based prenatal program providers and mothers of children with FASD who see that medical interventions, should they be found to be effective, are likely to be only a part of the picture, and that a range of prevention efforts will always be needed.

Whether or not learning and memory deficits can be reversed through hormonal and insulin interventions in the future, there are many other health deficits resulting from alcohol-exposed pregnancies that remain and that may not respond to this treatment (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160106091842.htm ).

Consequently, even if this new clinical trial shows positive outcomes, FASD prevention efforts that support women’s decision making about alcohol use, and prevention efforts that influence the social determinants of women’s health will still be needed.

You can read more here:

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-07/nu-rfa071717.php

 

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.

New – 2015 FASD Prevention Bibliography: A look at “Prevalence”

 

2015 Bibliography
FASD Prevention: An Annotated Bibliography of Articles Published in 2015  — Prepared by Rose Schmidt and Nancy Poole, BCCEWH, June 2016

Each year, researchers with the Prevention Network Action Team (pNAT) of CanFASD Research Network conduct an international literature review of academic articles published on FASD prevention. Rose Schmidt and Nancy Poole of BC Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health looked at articles published between January and December 2015 and compiled a comprehensive bibliography of 88 FASD prevention-related articles – an increase of 25 articles from last year. With this review, those working on FASD prevention will be able to update themselves on the most current evidence and tailor policy and practice accordingly.

The bulk of the articles have come from the U.S., Canada and Australia, the United Kingdom and South Africa, in that order. The articles are organized under the four-level prevention framework created by the pNAT, as well as including articles related to FASD prevalence, influences, issues of preconception, indigenous women and young women. Fourteen articles were assigned to more than one topic category.

A look at “prevalence”

The topic category with the most articles was prevalence, followed in order by brief intervention with girls and women of childbearing age (Level 2), and influences. Preconception, raising awareness (Level 1), and specialized prenatal report (Level 3) also had a significant number of articles. We will highlight these topics individually in this blog over time in order to focus on key components of FASD prevention.

There were 26 articles having to do with prevalence rates as compared to seven articles in that category in 2014. They relate to specific location, U.S., Canada, Uganda, Norway and Tanzania, for instance, as well as pregnancy intentions, characteristics of women at risk for alcohol-exposed pregnancy, women’s understanding of risk factors during pregnancy, rates of binge drinking, adverse childhood experiences, and use of both alcohol and tobacco during pregnancy.

Some of the more compelling findings include:

  • new data from Canada shows that 27% of pregnancies are unintended – useful in that previous data on unintended pregnancies has been from the U.S. only [1];
  • smoking currently or in the past increased the likelihood of consuming alcohol during pregnancy [2];
  • experiences of abuse and violence are associated with higher levels of drinking during pregnancy[3], as well as higher education levels and older maternal age [4-9];
  • a “dose response” relationship was found to exist between adverse childhood experiences and drinking during pregnancy[3], and;
  • smoking during pregnancy was the most consistent predictor of drinking during pregnancy[10] .

Preconception behaviors as they relate to prevalence of alcohol-exposed pregnancies, in general, has become more of a focus in prevention efforts, and will be further discussed in upcoming blog posts on this bibliography.

For more information on FASD Prevention and Prevalence, see these earlier posts:


REFERENCES
  1. Oulman, E., et al., Prevalence and predictors of unintended pregnancy among women: an analysis of the Canadian Maternity Experiences Survey. BMC Pregnancy & Childbirth, 2015. 15: p. 1-8.
  2. Lange, S., et al., Alcohol use, smoking and their co-occurrence during pregnancy among Canadian women, 2003 to 2011/12. Addictive Behaviors, 2015. 50: p. 102-109.
  3. Frankenberger, D.J., K. Clements-Nolle, and W. Yang, The association between adverse childhood experiences and alcohol use during pregnancy in a representative sample of adult women. Women’s Health Issues, 2015. 25(6): p. 688-695.
  4. English, L., et al., Prevalence of Ethanol Use Among Pregnant Women in Southwestern Uganda. Journal Of Obstetrics And Gynaecology Canada: JOGC = Journal D’obstétrique Et Gynécologie Du Canada: JOGC, 2015. 37(10): p. 901-902.
  5. González-Mesa, E., et al., High levels of alcohol consumption in pregnant women from a touristic area of Southern Spain. Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 2015. 35(8): p. 821-824.
  6. Dunney, C., K. Muldoon, and D.J. Murphy, Alcohol consumption in pregnancy and its implications for breastfeeding. British Journal of Midwifery, 2015. 23(2): p. 126-134.
  7. Kingsbury, A.M., et al., Women’s frequency of alcohol consumption prior to pregnancy and at their pregnancy-booking visit 2001–2006: A cohort study. Women & Birth, 2015. 28(2): p. 160-165 6p.
  8. Kitsantas, P., K.F. Gaffney, and H. Wu, Identifying high-risk subgroups for alcohol consumption among younger and older pregnant women. Journal of Perinatal Medicine, 2015. 43(1): p. 43-52 10p.
  9. Lanting, C.I., et al., Prevalence and pattern of alcohol consumption during pregnancy in the Netherlands. BMC Public Health, 2015. 15(1): p. 1-5.
  10. O’Keeffe, L.M., et al., Prevalence and predictors of alcohol use during pregnancy: findings from international multicentre cohort studies. BMJ Open, 2015. 5(7): p. e006323-e006323.

 

Alberta’s PCAP Women’s Quilt: “Creating a bond . . . Building a relationship”

PCAP quilt squareParent-Child Assistance Programs (PCAP) are one important approach to FASD prevention in a number of provinces in Canada and the U.S. These programs use a relational, women-centred, strengths-based approach, which is proven to be effective in FASD prevention [1, 2].

As a visual way to express their experiences of mentorship within Alberta’s PCAP program, women came together in workshops across the province to create individual quilt squares for a larger quilt.

The finished quilt, pictured below, captures the hope, resilience, acceptance and connection that participation in the PCAP program has brought them and their children.

revisedapril4 quilt photoIMG_7064

Described as lively, creative, interactive and dynamic, the workshops were held in Calgary, Edmonton and several rural communities; women were supported by their mentors in getting to them. The workshops built connection between women as well as long-term relationships with their children and their mentors.

Developed and researched by Dorothy Badry, Kristin Bonot and Rhonda Delorme, a full description of the project is here.This is the second quilt project from Alberta’s PCAP program; the first quilt was made by mentors (read more about that project here).

To read earlier blogs about FASD primary prevention projects in Canada follow the links below:

The Mother-Child Study

H.E.R. Pregnancy Program

The Mothering Project

HerWay Home Program

FASD Prevention in Saskatchewan

Harm Reduction and Pregnancy

1. Thanh, N.X., et al., An economic evaluation of the parent-child assistance program for preventing fetal alcohol spectrum disorder in Alberta, Canada. Adm Policy Ment Health, 2015. 42(1): p. 10-8. View article link
2. Grant, T.M., et al., Preventing alcohol and drug exposed births in Washington state: Intervention findings from three parent-child assistance program sites. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 2005. 31(3): p. 471-490. View PDF