Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Women's knowledge and attitudes regarding alcohol consumption in pregnancy: a national survey

Elizabeth Peadon1*, Jan Payne2, Nadine Henley3, Heather D'Antoine2, Anne Bartu4, Colleen O'Leary2, Carol Bower2 and Elizabeth J Elliott1

Author Affiliations

1 Discipline of Paediatrics and Child Health, Sydney Medical School, The University of Sydney, The Children's Hospital at Westmead, Locked Bag 4001, Westmead, NSW 2145 Australia

2 Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, Centre for Child Health Research, The University of Western Australia, PO Box 855, West Perth Western Australia 6872 Australia

3 Centre for Applied Social Marketing and Research, Edith Cowan University, 270 Joondalup Drive, Joondalup Western Australia 6027 Australia

4 School of Nursing and Midwifery, Faculty Health Sciences, Curtin University of Technology, GPO Box U1987 Perth Western Australia 6845 Australia

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:510  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-510

Published: 23 August 2010



Alcohol exposure in pregnancy is a common and modifiable risk factor for poor pregnancy and child outcomes. Alcohol exposure in pregnancy can cause a range of physical and neurodevelopmental problems in the child including the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). In order to improve prevention strategies, we sought to describe the knowledge and attitudes of women of childbearing age regarding alcohol consumption during pregnancy and its effects on the fetus.


We conducted a national cross-sectional survey via computer assisted telephone interview of 1103 Australian women aged 18 to 45 years. Participants were randomly selected from the Electronic White Pages. Pregnant women were not eligible to participate. Quotas were set for age groups and a minimum of 100 participants per state to ensure a national sample reflecting the population. The questionnaire was based on a Health Canada survey with additional questions constructed by the investigators. Descriptive statistics were calculated and logistic regression analyses were used to assess associations with participants' knowledge and attitudes.


Of women surveyed, 61.5% had heard about effects of alcohol on the fetus and 55.3% had heard of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Although 92.7% agreed alcohol can affect the unborn child, 16.2% did not agree that the disabilities could be lifelong. Most women agreed that pregnant women should not drink alcohol (80.2%) and 79.2% reported having negative feelings towards pregnant women drinking alcohol. Women with higher education levels were more likely to know the effects of alcohol consumption in pregnancy (adjusted OR 5.62; 95% CI 3.20 to 9.87) but education level and knowledge were not associated with attitude.


There was a disjunction between knowledge and attitudes towards alcohol consumption in pregnancy. These findings will assist in developing effective health promotion campaigns to reduce fetal alcohol exposure and subsequent fetal damage.