Despite extensive public awareness about the dangers of drinking alcohol during pregnancy, close to 120,000 children are born every year with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), according to estimates presented in The Lancet Global Health .
The study provides the first-ever estimates of the global rates of FAS and alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Based on available evidence, it determined that on average 10 per cent of women drink when pregnancy, with rates ranging from 0.2 per cent in Eastern Mediterranean countries and 1.8 per cent in South-East Asia, to 25.2 per cent in Europe. The countries with the highest rates were Russia, the UK, Denmark, Belarus and Ireland.
Rates of FAS reflected rates of alcohol consumption, ranging from 0.2 per 10,000 in the Eastern Mediterranean region and 2.7 per 10,000 in South-East Asia, to 37.4 per 10,000 in Europe. The prevalence of FAS in Europe was 2.6-times the global average. Based on the estimates, one in every 67 mothers who drink during pregnancy will deliver a child with FAS.
Unfortunately, the figures are likely to underestimate the true prevalence of alcohol-associated foetal sequelae, as the analyses did not include Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders such as partial FAS and Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorders (ARND).