A quarter of young adults are unaware that women should not drink alcohol during pregnancy, research has revealed.
Sales of beers, wines and spirits in supermarkets have soared during the pandemic as more and more Brits drink at home.
And there are fears pregnant women could put their baby’s health at risk by not knowing the official health guidance around drinking while expecting.
The survey of 2,000 18-25 year-olds found 26 per cent don’t know the chief medical officer’s guidance that if pregnant or planning a pregnancy, the safest approach is to avoid alcohol.
Just 17 per cent of young adults correctly identified alcohol exposure in utero as having more long-term harm to a baby than other substances such as heroin.
Almost half (49 per cent) of 18-25 year-olds polled said they get information on alcohol in pregnancy from social media.
And four in 10 said a teacher had discussed it with them.
The research was carried out by the National Organisation for FASD, which is dedicated to supporting people affected by Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD), their families and communities.
Sandra Butcher, chief executive, NOFAS-UK, said: “Information is power. It is deeply concerning that so few young people are aware of the dangers.
“Alcohol exposure in pregnancy risks more life-long impact on a developing brain and body than heroin. FASD is preventable – no alcohol, no risk.”
The study also found more than one in five (22 per cent) could identify that the acronym FASD stands for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder – the lifelong, brain-based condition that can result from exposure to alcohol in the womb.
Studies have shown that FASD is more prevalent than autism but it is widely misdiagnosed or undiagnosed.
To highlight the dangers of drinking while pregnant, NOFAS-UK has launched a new website – www.preventFASD.info – targeting young adults.
It features a bold award-winning film, RISK, and a national competition to get ideas from young people on how to raise awareness.
Health and social care lecturer Jo Buckard, an expert in FASD, said: “There’s been progress but no one should rest easy with these figures.
“If one-quarter of those in childbearing years hasn’t got the message yet, that could lead to a massive risk of FASD.
“Add to that the fact that during this lockdown it’s harder to get access to contraceptives and pregnancy tests, it’s a perfect storm for a possible future upsurge in FASD.”
Sandra Butcher, chief executive, NOFAS-UK, added: “We hope schools and community groups will get behind this initiative.
“Young people need to know why this matters.
“Adults have missed the mark on this for so long, we believe once they have the facts the next generation will be the one to stop this preventable, hidden epidemic.”