Issues Magazine

Indigenous Health – Alcohol Harming Indigenous Unborn

Issues 83: Indigenous Health

Issues 83: Indigenous Health

By Sally Woollett

A campaign to raise awareness among Aboriginal women about the risks of drug and alcohol consumption during pregnancy was launched earlier this year by NSW Minister for Mental Health and Healthy Lifestyles, Kevin Humphries.

Humphries said the Aboriginal Prenatal Mental Health and Drug and Alcohol Campaign emphasises the role partners, families and communities can play in supporting pregnant Aboriginal women in making healthy lifestyle choices. “The shame, stigma and often a lack of knowledge about mental health and drug and alcohol issues during and after pregnancy are often a major barrier preventing people seeking professional help,” Mr Humphries said.

“One of the key messages of this campaign is ‘stay strong and healthy – it’s worth it’, which is a reminder that healthy choices during pregnancy mean a stronger and healthier baby.

“The campaign will reach Aboriginal women through a mix of print and radio advertisements as well as online support through social media like Facebook.”

The campaign also aims to raise awareness of services available to pregnant Aboriginal women and their families across NSW, including 11 new specialist mental health, drug and alcohol services co-located in Aboriginal Maternal and Infant Health Services.

Aboriginal obstetrician Dr Marilyn Kong said research shows that nine per cent of Aboriginal women will experience depression in pregnancy, and this increases to 16 per cent in the year following the birth.

“Drinking alcohol, smoking and drug taking during pregnancy often causes serious problems for many Aboriginal women and ultimately impacts the health and development of their unborn child,” Dr Kong said.

“Childhood health services can provide important advice and support to new mothers and families as well as advice on vaccinations and other important baby development checks.”

In November 2012, Fairfax newspapers reported that a Kimberley-based study of the effects of alcohol consumption on unborn Aboriginal children found “devastating rates of intellectual disability”. Half of the eight-year-olds in the region are said to have disabilities related to the disorder. Foetal alcohol syndrome disorder is thought to be widely under-reported.

With National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation