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Riv Psichiatr. 2020 Mar-Apr;55(2):79-89. doi: 10.1708/3333.33022.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders awareness in health professionals: implications for psychiatry.

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Department of Gynecology, Obstetrics and Urology, Sapienza University Hospital of Rome, Italy.
Centro Riferimento Alcologico Regione Lazio, ASL Roma 1, Italy.
Department of Pediatrics, Sapienza University Hospital of Rome, Italy.
National Centre on Addiction and Doping, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome, Italy.
San Raffaele Roma, Open University, Rome, Italy.
Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, IBBC-CNR, Rome, Italy.
ASUR Marche-AV4, Italy.
Department of Experimental Medicine, Sapienza University Hospital of Rome, Italy.
SITAC, Società Italiana per Il Trattamento dell'Alcolismo e delle sue Complicanze, Rome, Italy.


Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) are a plethora of malformative conditions leading to mental retardation that affect newborns and children who have been exposed to alcohol during pregnancy or breastfeeding. FASD is a relevant topic for public health in Europe: European area is first in ranking for alcohol use during pregnancy with a prevalence of 25.2%. Italy ranked third among European countries with higher prevalence of FASD (45.0 per 1000 population). Furthermore, FASD could still be underestimated because of numerous undiagnosed and misdiagnosed cases. Aims of the study were to briefly summarize existing evidences about FASD and its psychiatric aspects to assess knowledge, attitudes and practice towards alcohol drinking during pregnancy in an Italian sample of health care professionals in order to provide information about FASD prevention. An anonymous online questionnaire containing the AUDIT-C, T-ACE model and the Drinking Motive Questionnaire was sent to 400 Italian healthcare professionals and students. The survey included socio-demographic information, questions about drinking habits and about knowledge, attitude and practice towards alcohol assumption during pregnancy. Among 320 respondents, 96.3% were women. AUDIT-C revealed that 52.4% were low risk drinkers but 27.6% were hazardous drinkers. The 90.6% of participants denied to ever attended a course about the fetus damage induced by alcohol consumption during pregnancy but 91.3% were willing to participate to professional update initiatives on the topic. Only 19.1% of participants talk regularly about the deleterious effects for the fetus of prenatal alcohol drinking to women and only 51.1% advise the 'zero alcohol' policy. Around 41% of participants tolerates the assumption of low-alcohol beverages. No differences were found between no drinkers and low and hazardous drinkers. In conclusion, data show that only specific and continuing updating for health care professionals about drinking habits may have impactful actions to prevent gestational alcohol intake in order to prevent the main cause of mental retardation in western countries.


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