Health officials are working with a maternity support group to improve advice about the importance of abstaining from alcohol during pregnancy.
The desire to gain greater awareness of the potential damage that alcohol may cause to unborn babies has prompted a survey of pregnant women and those who have recently given birth.
The Alcohol Profile 2022, issued last month, said that 2% of women admitted drinking some alcohol while pregnant, with the majority consuming "small amounts or only [drinking] occasionally".
However, evidence regarding the issue remains largely based on self-reported data, as the Health Department has confirmed that a study of 'baby poo' for signs of alcohol, due to be carried out in 2021, was postponed and has yet to be rearranged.
Analysis of a newborn baby's first stool, known as 'meconium', for ethyl glucuronide – a marker for metabolised alcohol – took place in Jersey in 2018 and was due to be repeated three years later, according to a Government announcement issued in August 2021.
Pictured: Analysing a newborn baby's first stool for a markers of metabolised alcohol is a more reliable way of collecting information than self-reported data, as people may feel guilt or stigma associated with drinking in pregnancy making them less likely to report it.
In a statement issued this week, head of midwifery Dana Scott said: "The study which had been planned in 2021 was postponed.
"The delay was a result of the ongoing refurbishment of the maternity department, which saw the maternity team need to adjust their ways of working to accommodate the building work – a new date for the study has yet to be agreed."
Ms Scott said the matter remained a focus for those working in maternity.
She added: "Officers from various government departments have been working to further improve the advice we give to women about avoiding alcohol during pregnancy – this includes partnering with Jersey Maternity Voices to conduct an anonymous survey to gain a better understanding of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
"The feedback from the survey, which is now closed, is hoped to provide a better understanding of islanders' attitudes to drinking during pregnancy and improve messaging on abstaining from alcohol when trying for a baby, pregnant and breastfeeding."
Jersey Maternity Voices is a group of volunteers, including midwives, former midwives and others with relevant experience, which is run along similar lines to groups in the UK which focus on maternity provision within the National Health Service.
In the Alcohol Profile, it was acknowledged that self-reporting was not the perfect method for collating evidence.
The authors of the profile, from the Government's Health Intelligence Unit, stated: "It is difficult to assess people's alcohol consumption, as it relies on people being truthful and accurate about how much they drink – this may be even more difficult in pregnant women, as they may feel guilt or stigma associated with drinking alcohol in pregnancy, making them less likely to report it."
The Government has confirmed that the 'drinking during pregnancy' section of the Alcohol Profile was based on information gained by the maternity department from expectant mothers as part of pre-natal checks.
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