Time to tackle women's 'risky drinking' - study

Dr Sherly Parackal
Dr Sherly Parackal
Holistic public health efforts to counter "risky drinking" among women of childbearing age will also reduce the prevalence of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, a new Dunedin study suggests.

"The real issue is 'risky drinking', which has negative impacts on just about anything you can think of, including driving," study lead author Dr Sherly Parackal said yesterday.

"Public health efforts should be towards addressing risky drinking- emphasising its negative impact on a whole range of issues starting with the health of women of childbearing age."

The negative effects of smoking on one's own health as well as in pregnancy were also well known.

"Hence public health efforts, in the form of health promotion campaigns, should use a more holistic approach to address the effects of risky drinking and smoking on the health of young women and future generations via alcohol- and smoke-free pregnancies," Dr Parackal said.

It was important to inform women about the dangers of FASD, but this knowledge did not discourage women from drinking early in pregnancy when they did not realise they were pregnant.

Dr Parackal, who is a research fellow in the University of Otago preventive and social medicine department, said this study was a "follow-on" from her earlier study, published in 2005, which showed that women aged 30 years and below were at risk for drinking before recognition of pregnancy.

The latest study, titled "Associated Factors of Drinking Prior to Recognising Pregnancy and Risky Drinking among New Zealand Women Aged 18 to 35 Years" was recently published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), a result of maternal drinking, was prevalent in 3%-5% of children in the United States and in about 8 per 1000 children throughout the world, she said.

FASDs are a group of conditions that can occur in a person whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy, and problems can include an abnormal appearance, short height, low intelligence, behaviour problems, and problems with hearing or seeing.

The study was based on a national survey of 1062 people, selected from the electoral roll.

The other authors of the study are Dr Parackal's husband, Dr Mathew Parackal, and Associate Prof John Harraway, both of Otago University.


Excessive alcohol is so destructive - for physical and mental health. What has happened to people that they need to destroy themselves and others this way. Fun has turned to destruction.