Pittman talks up the benefits of alcohol-free pregnancies

April 24, 2023 BY

Dr Jana Pittman says that at every stage of pregnancy, and when breastfeeding, any alcohol you drink passes directly to your developing baby. Photo: SUPPLIED

Olympian turned women’s health doctor Dr Jana Pittman wants to get Australians talking about alcohol-free pregnancies, and safe breastfeeding practices.

Announced this month as an ambassador for the Every Moment Matters campaign, Dr Pittman is encouraging Australians to learn more about how every moment matters in a pregnancy when it comes to alcohol use.

Developed by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) and endorsed and funded by the federal government, Every Moment Matters is Australia’s first nationwide public awareness campaign to raise awareness of the risk of alcohol use during pregnancy.

“In my experience with friends, family and even patients, I can see there is so much misinformation about alcohol and what is and isn’t safe during pregnancy and also while breastfeeding,” Dr Pittman said.

“The message we need to share very clearly is that at every stage of pregnancy, and when breastfeeding, any alcohol you drink passes directly to your developing baby.

“That’s why the National Health and Medical Research Council’s Australian Guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking say that women who are pregnant should not drink alcohol – and for women who are breastfeeding, not drinking alcohol is safest for their baby.

“As a mum of six and a doctor, I’ve been through this process enough times to know the score, however for many first-time parents it’s an entirely new concept. It’s something I really don’t believe is discussed enough, particularly at the very early stages of family planning.

“I’m hoping we can start more conversations about supporting alcohol-free pregnancies, and promote evidence-based strategies to ensure breastmilk that is fed to babies is alcohol-free too.

“This includes helping health professionals to have these important conversations with mums-to-be, and providing advice that’s based on the latest research.”

Drinking alcohol during any stage of pregnancy can lead to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), which causes a range of physical, behavioural and cognitive problems. FASD is the leading preventable developmental disability in Australia and can cause challenges with speech and language development, learning, behaviour, motor skills, sensory processing and social interactions.

“The support of partners, friends and family is critical for people who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant,” Dr Pittman said. “Not drinking alcohol is infinitely more manageable when others aren’t drinking, so one of the best ways to support someone you care about is to join them in stopping.”

“You can also plan social events without alcohol, provide or bring alcohol-free drinks to gatherings, or simply show support for someone if they’re being pressured to drink alcohol in social situations.”

FARE chief executive officer Caterina Giorgi said the foundation was excited to welcome Dr Pittman as an Every Moment Matters ambassador.

“There are so many mixed messages about alcohol, pregnancy and breastfeeding and it is great to be able to share consistent messages that cut through the misinformation and support families to have alcohol-free pregnancies.”

For more information about the campaign, head to everymomentmatters.org.au