Anger at plans that cause pregnant women who drink to have it included in the baby’s medical records
Anger arose today over controversial plans to get pregnant women who drink alcohol to record all of their consumption in their baby’s medical records – even if they only had one glass of wine.
The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) warned that the move would be a “ gross breach ” of data privacy and burn trust between women and healthcare providers.
Midwives currently ask women what they’ve been drinking since conception, but are not required to include that information.
A single glass of wine consumed before a woman knew she was pregnant will be documented based on the controversial proposal from the NHS advisory body NICE. The proposal, which is not set in stone, will not seek the mother’s consent to record the information.
NICE says an accurate record of expectant mothers’ alcohol consumption will help identify children at risk for fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) – a range of conditions that can cause lifelong problems, such as learning difficulties, stunted growth and problems with concentration.
Charities claim that if a woman drank small amounts of alcohol before knowing she was pregnant, as is often the case with unplanned pregnancies, the risk of FASD is typically low.
Drinking just one glass of wine during pregnancy, even before women are sure they are pregnant, is entered in their baby’s medical records under controversial new proposals
Under the new plans, expectant mothers would be urged to remember how much drink they had at prenatal appointments.
However, women could easily hide the truth or underreport their alcohol use. Or maybe they just don’t remember.
The results would be formally recorded in the maternity records before transferring them to that of the newborn.
An accurate record of a pregnant woman’s alcohol consumption will help identify children at risk of developing physical problems, as well as learning and behavioral problems through FASD, says NICE.
Being able to watch drinking habits is especially important for children who are being adopted or placed under supervision, it added.
However, the proposed guidelines have proven controversial with charities labeling them as “ unjustified and disproportionate ” urging NICE to rethink.
WHAT IS FETAL ALCOHOL SYNDROME?
When a pregnant woman drinks, the alcohol in her bloodstream passes freely through the placenta into the blood of the fetus.
Since the fetus does not have a fully developed liver, it cannot filter the toxins from the alcohol like the mother can.
Instead, the alcohol circulates in the fetus’s blood system, which can damage brain cells and damage the developing baby’s nervous system for the entire nine months of pregnancy.
It can result in the loss of the pregnancy and babies who survive can face lifelong problems.
Fetal alcohol syndrome is a type of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), the name for all of the different problems that can affect children when their mother drinks alcohol during pregnancy.
- a head that is smaller than average
- poor growth – they can be smaller than average at birth, grow slowly with age and shorter than average as an adult
- distinctive facial features – such as small eyes, a thin upper lip, and a smooth area between the nose and upper lip, although these become less noticeable with age
- movement and balance problems
- learning difficulties – such as problems with thinking, speaking, social skills, time tracking, math, or memory
- problems with attention, concentration or hyperactivity
- problems with the liver, kidneys, heart or other organs
- hearing and vision problems
These problems are permanent, although early treatment and support can help limit their impact on the life of an affected child.
Sources: NHS and NOFAS-UK
Clare Murphy of the BPAS said, “Most women say they drink very little or not at all during pregnancy, even though they may have been drinking before they had a positive pregnancy test.”
She said on BBC Radio 4’s Today program: “ The idea of this data being transferred to her child’s medical records without the woman’s consent is an absolutely gross violation of her data privacy. And our position is very much that women do not lose their right to medical privacy simply because they are pregnant. ‘
The charity, which provides advice, counseling and abortion care to about 100,000 women each year, added that there is no evidence that lower alcohol consumption causes harm.
Ms. Murphy said, “There is simply no conclusive evidence of harm from low consumption.
‘I think at a time when we are increasingly talking about public health policy in response to the evidence and also debating data privacy, this set of proposals is an insult on both levels.
“I think we need to think very carefully about the implications for the really important relationship between a woman and her caregiver if she thinks her confidentiality is compromised in this way.
“We want women to be able to have candid and confidential conversations with their midwives because that’s the best way to reach and protect the health of pregnant women and their babies.”
Ms. Murphy said women who drink heavily “are often well known to health professionals.”
Experts also suggested the proposals could break trust between midwives and expectant mothers.
And the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists admitted it “shares some of the concerns raised,” while legal experts suggested they could not be enforceable by violating the GDPR.
Matthew Holman, a data privacy attorney, said, “Any attempt to enforce disclosure against the will of the mother is likely to be illegal, except perhaps in the most limited cases where there is a clear and present risk to the unborn child.”
NICE insists that feedback from members of the public and outside organizations will help to understand what will and will not work in England.
Each year, 40,000 babies are born in the US with FASD, a diagnosis used to describe a wide variety of physical, mental, behavioral and learning difficulties.
It is not clear how many have been affected in the UK. But the lead support group NOFAS-UK cites research from the University of Bristol that found 6 percent of a study cohort, equal to 4 million Britons, may have FASD.
But it could be as much as 17 percent, depending on how the researchers analyzed the data. The findings were criticized for potentially freaking out pregnant women and wanting to request an abortion.
It suggests that FASD, often described as a ‘hidden disability’, affects more people than autism and is usually undiagnosed or undiagnosed.
NOFAS-UK says, ‘If you had small amounts before you knew you were pregnant or while you were pregnant, the RISK is low in most cases.
Choose to stop drinking now for your baby’s future. If your child has problems later, ask doctors about FASD. ‘
The risk of FASD is higher the more you drink, the NHS says, although there is no proven ‘safe’ alcohol content during pregnancy. Therefore, not drinking at all is the safest approach.