Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Low level alcohol consumption and the fetus

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 17 February 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:375

Rapid Response:

Re: Australian authorities do not recommend abstinence from alcohol for pregnant women

Dr Wodak I am the biological mother of two children with foetal
alcohol spectrum disorder. The Australian Medical Association has issued
a request to the National Health and Medical Research Council to review
the guidelines to which you refer to an abstinence position.

I would have preferred some anxiety during pregnancy to the anxiety I
experience every day now knowing that my sons have been physically harmed
by my drinking. My youngest son will be on the disability support pension
all his life because of this condition and will probably never be able to
hold down a "normal" job. If doctors had given me information when my
first son was born underweight, with failure to thrive, possibly retarded
and with suspected hearing problems, my youngest son would not be affected
and would be able to live a "normal" life.

He is currently dependent on my husband and I for almost everything
that he does - he is 20 years old - and has accessed services from the
government which have been and will continue to be a source of huge

If only I had been told during my pregnancies about this condition
and that even one drink could be harmful, my children would be safe. The
safety of the child is paramount and anxiety in the mother can be
supported by her family, friends and doctor for 9 months whereas my sons
will need support for the remainder of their lives.

I am afraid to die because of the fear of what will happen to my
youngest son without this support.

Please do not minimise the problems that drinking any amount of
alcohol during pregnancy can cause. Abstinence has to be the only option
for your pregnant patients.

Elizabeth Russell

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

26 March 2005
Elizabeth A Russell
Queensland 4740