Nationwide campaign aims to educate women in Ukraine on the harm of alcohol consumption during pregnancy

Be—it Health&Social Impact

It is estimated that 25–35% of women in Ukraine consume alcohol during pregnancy. As a result, the country has one of the highest rates of fetal alcohol syndrome cases (50 cases per 10 000) in the world. This concerning situation has spurred a nationwide campaign to inform pregnant women about the devastating effects of alcohol on the fetus.

The "Virgin" Pregnancy communications campaign aims to reduce alcohol consumption during pregnancy. It is implemented within the framework of Noncommunicable Diseases: Prevention and Health Promotion in Ukraine, a joint project of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine and WHO, supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

As part of this campaign, 9 Ukrainian gynaecologists took part in an educational art performance to highlight that even minimal amounts of alcohol consumed by a pregnant woman put the unborn child at risk.

“Today, we launch an important campaign to raise awareness in Ukraine on health, pregnancy and use of alcohol. Policy-makers and communication specialists, doctors and nurses, relatives and friends – all have an important role to play in supporting and protecting women and their babies from being exposed to alcohol during pregnancy and breastfeeding,” noted Jarno Habicht, WHO Representative in Ukraine.

Harmful effects of alcohol on pregnancy

A formative study, conducted by WHO in Ukraine in 2018, found that many pregnant women do not receive reliable information about the harmful effects of alcohol during pregnancy, and believe that “small” doses of alcoholic beverages will not harm them or their child.

However, any amount of alcohol consumption throughout the pregnancy can cause serious issues and affect the child’s liver, heart and nervous system. As Andriy Skipalskyi, Director-General of the Directorate of Public Health of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, explains: “Studies show that even small doses of alcohol during pregnancy affect the cognitive and socioemotional development of a child, and may also cause other health problems: neuro-ontogenetic disorders and congenital defects associated with alcohol.”

Art to raise health literacy and awareness

To emphasize the detrimental impact of alcohol, the art performance featured gynaecologists in medical outfits designed by Ukrainian artist Eugenia Haydamaka. These outfits metaphorically depicted the different systems of the child’s body that can be negatively affected by alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

“When talking about a pregnant woman, harm from alcohol may not be obvious right away, but it may appear many years later through health problems in a child. Therefore, we urge women to completely refrain from drinking alcohol during pregnancy,” emphasized Volodymyr Kurpita, Director-General of the Centre for Public Health of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine.