Tools for professionals and caregivers

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is the leading preventable cause of birth defects, developmental disorders and intellectual disability in unborn children. To avoid this completely preventable disorder and improve your knowledge about it, here are some useful tools and information for your practice.

Concerning facts about FASD, alcohol and pregnancy

Recommendation in effect

In Quebec, the current Public Health Notice from the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux states that if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, do not take any risks, do not consume any alcohol.

Alcohol and pregnancy: A complex problem

Alcohol crosses the placenta and is toxic for the fetus. The effects of alcohol use during pregnancy are unpredictable, variable and permanent. Nearly 400 possible health problems have been associated with it.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is difficult to diagnose and often confused with other diagnoses, such as oppositional defiant disorder and attention deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity.

An ASPQ-Léger survey conducted in the summer of 2020 showed that:

  • 64% of teenagers, 50% of Quebecers and 28% of pregnant women are not aware of FASD.
  • Pregnant women aged 18–24 are more likely to maintain their alcohol use during pregnancy.
  • According to the women interviewed, in nearly 50% of cases, the issue of alcohol use during pregnancy is not discussed by professionals during pregnancy monitoring (or is not discussed enough to be retained).
  • There is little data on the prevalence of FASD in Quebec. However, according to a recent study in Toronto (Popova, 2018), for a population where 11% of women consumed alcohol during pregnancy, the proportion of individuals with FASD would be 2–3%.

Alcohol and women in Quebec

Did you know that…

80% of Quebec women aged 12 and up consume alcohol and nearly 50% of them do so regularly.

29% of women aged 18–34 have drank excessively (4 or more drinks on one occasion) at least once a month during the past year.

Recommendation in effect

In Quebec, the current Public Health Notice from the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux states that if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, do not take any risks, do not consume any alcohol.

Educate youth, expectant parents and the public about the risks of alcohol consumption during pregnancy

The ASPQ has developed its first awareness campaign entitled During pregnancy, go alcohol free. It can help you raise awareness of this issue among your patients.

Plan an FASD presentation for your team

The ASPQ offers you a short meeting to raise your team's awareness of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

View the infographic for professionals and caregivers

Tools offered by the ASPQ

Posters and Bookmarks

Video clips

Tools offered by the ASPQ

The majority of people are unaware of FASD and even less of its effects on the unborn child. Simply talking about alcohol consumption during pregnancy is unfortunately still taboo in Quebec. Very few data are available to understand this major public health issue.

Discover concrete tools to better support future mothers in pregnancy monitoring by addressing the issue of alcohol consumption during pregnancy with empathy.

Living with FASD : A daily challenge for the whole family

Guillaume is a young adult with FASD. Despite the many obstacles he’s faced, he’s proud of how far he’s come with the support of family and friends. He and his father, Marc-André, share their day-to-day life with this disorder with an open heart and no taboos.


Alcohol and pregnancy

A. After exploring and supplementing the woman’s knowledge of the consequences of alcohol use during pregnancy, attempt to learn more about her reasons for drinking in order to offer support without seeking justification.

Here are some examples of questions you could ask :

  • Under what circumstances do you consume alcohol?
  • Do you have any other way to relax/have fun to avoid alcohol use during pregnancy?
  • Have you thought about stopping? If so, what would be your plan to stop? If not, what makes you unable to stop?
  • How can I help you?
  • Did you know that there are free resources to help you in your journey?

If she displays some openness in this regard, let her know that it’s never too late to stop drinking and share some resources with her.

A. No, because there’s no recognized safe level of alcohol use for the fetus. In addition, the consequences of alcohol are unpredictable and depend on uncontrollable factors, such as the genetics of the mother and the unborn child. This is why we recommend abstinence.

A. It’s important to educate the following three target audiences to better prevent FASD.

  • Adolescents and young adults, prior to parenthood:
    Half of all pregnancies are unplanned. Show the awareness campaign videos featuring Charly and display this character in your practice space.
  • Expectant parents and parents, during pregnancy:
    As with other lifestyle habits, alcohol use should be discussed with all pregnant women, regardless of their socioeconomic characteristics. It should also be done at various stages of pregnancy since consumption may occur later or fluctuate.
  • The general population:
    Social environment can have an impact on alcohol use. To better support pregnant women and avoid misinformation as well as social pressure to have “a drink,” the general population must receive the same messages on abstaining from alcohol during pregnancy. Publicizing this website and the During pregnancy, go alcohol free awareness campaign tools can, among other things, help normalize the consumption and availability of non-alcoholic beverages, including at festive events, to create more supporting environments for FASD prevention.

FASD information

A. Only 10 % to 20 % of people with FASD have characteristic facial features. According to the 2015 Canadian guidelines, a multidisciplinary team is required to confidently make a FASD diagnosis. Since there are few specialized teams in Quebec, FASD is under-diagnosed.

If you suspect FASD in a child, specialists at the CHU Sainte-Justine, the Montreal Children’s Hospital or the CHUL in Quebec City can be consulted. SafEra, an organization that specializes in supporting people with FASD, can also refer you to specialized professionals.

To learn more about the importance of diagnosing earlier rather than later, consult the second FASD newsletter, “Briser les tabous pour mieux prévenir” (in French only).

A. The effects of alcohol on a developing baby are variable, unpredictable and permanent. FASD is not a disease, but an irreversible condition. Therefore, there is no treatment. However, early management to stimulate certain spheres of development and propose compensatory strategies will ensure an easier life.

To learn more about FASD

Since 2020, the ASPQ has published an annual newsletter during International FASD Awareness Month.

ASPQ publications on FASD

The ASPQ has produced various reports that are available to professionals and caregivers to learn more about FASD.

Ways to discuss alcohol and pregnancy without taboos

Discuss alcohol use with all pregnant women and inform them that this topic is routinely talked about to avoid guilt or stigma.

Integrate the topic of alcohol with other lifestyle habits : sleep, physical activity, medication, diet and smoking.

Explore the pregnant woman’s knowledge of the risks of alcohol during pregnancy. If necessary, fill in the gaps. This website can help you.

Example :

  • What do you know about the consequences of alcohol use during pregnancy?

Explore how she feels about going without alcohol throughout the pregnancy to see if she finds it difficult and to offer resources if needed.

Example :

  • What do you think about the recommendation to go without alcohol throughout your pregnancy?

Use open-ended questions that promote dialogue.
Avoid leading questions such as, “You don’t drink alcohol, do you?”
Focus on non-judgemental, exploratory questions.

Examples :

  • Is your pregnancy welcome news?
  • When was the last time you consumed alcohol?
  • Currently, how much alcohol do you drink per day, per week, per month?

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Understanding FASD and its impact on life is essential

The more our society is aware of the impacts of alcohol use during pregnancy and FASD, the easier it will be to support expectant mothers in abstaining from alcohol during this stage of their lives as well as support people with FASD and their families.

Contribute to this movement by sharing information with your friends and family!

Discover Charly On Instagram

Instagram account for the #alcoholfreepregnancy campaign