A parliamentary inquiry has been told that warning labels about the dangers of consuming alcohol during pregnancy should be mandatory on liquor bottles.

A parliamentary inquiry has been told that warning labels about the dangers of consuming alcohol during pregnancy should be mandatory on liquor bottles. Photo: Gabriele Charotte

Foster parents and public health groups have urged federal politicians to take urgent action to prevent more babies from suffering foetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

A parliamentary inquiry has been told that labels warning of the dangers of consuming alcohol during pregnancy should be mandatory on liquor bottles.

Mandatory warning labels on alcohol products, including a message about the risk of drinking while pregnant, should be introduced 

Foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) refers to a variety of conditions that can affect development, mainly due to damage in the developing central nervous system.

One foster mother, whose identity was kept confidential by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs, described the condition as "cruel, insidious and wholly preventable".

"Without proper diagnosis, early intervention and recognition of the problems as valid disabilities, the outlook for children like my foster son is bleak," she said.

The woman said she and her husband have cared for a boy with FASD for eight years, since he was two years old.

"The child's behaviour and development [has been] affected in every way: he has major learning disabilities, poor impulse control, poor memory and concentration, inability to understand or learn social mores and consequences, no empathy, poor gross and fine motor skills, and an inability to grasp abstract concepts such as numbers," she said.

The Women's Christian Temperance Union said in a submission to the inquiry that education programs should be made available in high schools and the general community to warn women of the dangers of consuming alcohol when they were pregnant or hoping to become so.

"Education aids, such as leaflets and dolls replicating the condition, are very important and need to be readily available at low cost," the submission said.

"But technology needs to be used to the full, with TV advertisements (such as those used for road trauma), websites, Facebook, Twitter, etc - also apps for mobile phones. Education needs to target males as well as females so males are supportive of their partners' choices."

The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education said mandatory warning labels on alcohol products, including a message about the risk of drinking while pregnant, should be introduced in Australia.

National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines advise pregnant women that it's safest to avoid consuming any alcohol.

What do you think - will the labels help reduce the numbers of women drinking while pregnant? Have your say in the Essential Baby forums.