The WHO hasn’t said women should be banned from drinking
22 June 2021
What was claimed
The World Health Organisation said that women of childbearing age should be banned from drinking alcohol.
This isn’t accurate. The WHO have said that “appropriate attention should be given to prevention of [...] drinking among pregnant women and women of childbearing age”. The WHO told Full Fact that it does not recommend abstinence for all women of childbearing age.
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A numberof newsoutletshavereported that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that all women of childbearing age should not drink alcohol. Some outlets have reported this as the WHO ‘banning’ younger women from drinking alcohol. These articles have also been shared on social media.
The claims have arisen after the release of a first draft of the WHO’s Global alcohol action plan 2022-2030. The document does not say that women of childbearing age should be banned from drinking alcohol, but it does talk about preventative measures.
It says: “Appropriate attention should be given to prevention of the initiation of drinking among children and adolescents, prevention of drinking among pregnant women and women of childbearing age, and protection of people from pressures to drink, especially in societies with high levels of alcohol consumption where heavy drinkers are encouraged to drink even more.”
It is not exactly clear what “appropriate attention” to “prevention of drinking among [...] women of childbearing age” means here, but the WHO told us the draft “does not recommend abstinence of all women who are of an age at which they could become pregnant”.
We asked the WHO to clarify what it did mean by this section, but it said the plan being reported on by the media was a “first draft” and “several rounds of consultations” are due to take place before the final plan is released.
It said: “In the second draft, the section which has been reported on in the media since the publication of the first draft will be clarified to ensure that what is meant is clear.”
Without further clarification from the WHO, it is not clear exactly what it was proposing for women of childbearing age.
Some of the proposed actions for member states outlined in the draft document include advocating for strategies to reduce alcohol-related harm, including an emphasis on at- risk populations and preventing drinking in pregnancy and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, raising an awareness of health risks associated with different levels of alcohol consumption, regularly producing reports on national alcohol consumption and improving alcohol labelling and quality control. None of these proposed actions specifically target women of childbearing age who are not pregnant.
The WHO also told Full Fact: “The current draft of WHO’s global action plan does not recommend abstinence of all women who are of an age at which they could become pregnant.
“However it does seek to raise awareness of the serious consequences that can result from drinking alcohol while pregnant, even when the pregnancy is not yet known.”
It added: “The overall objective of WHO’s public health work with regard to alcohol is to protect the health of men, women and young people and prevent health conditions that result from its harmful use.”
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