Why alcohol and pregnancy don’t mix

As many as 300,000 Canadians are living with serious problems such as brain damage, birth defects and developmental delays resulting from alcohol consumption during pregnancy, according to FASD Ontario Network of Expertise.

“Prenatal exposure to alcohol is the leading known cause of preventable brain damage in Canada,” says Wendy McAllister, manager, Best Start Resource Centre. “Drinking while pregnant is also associated with other life-long health and emotional challenges.”

The term used to describe the range of defects and disabilities caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Current research indicates there is no proven safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Drinking alcohol of any kind – including beer, wine, coolers or spirits – can have negative effects on a developing baby.

There is also no safe time to drink alcohol when pregnant. The brain and central nervous system of an unborn child can be damaged by exposure to alcohol at any time leading up to birth.

With funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada, FASD Ontario Network of Expertise (ONE) is raising awareness of the dangers of drinking during pregnancy in conjunction with International FASD Awareness Day. Held each year on Sept. 9, FASDay is an opportunity for people to organize local activities and to share information about alcohol use in pregnancy.

Initiated by a Canadian couple whose daughter was diagnosed with the disorder, FASDay was launched in 1999 with the ringing of bells in communities around the globe at 9:09 a.m. on Sept. 9. FASDay facts and planning resources are available at www.fasworld.com

A key message of organizers and health agencies alike is that FASD is an issue we can do something about.

“The good news is that FASD can be prevented if pregnant women receive accurate information regarding the risks of alcohol consumption in pregnancy, and have access to needed health and social supports,” says McAllister.

“If a woman is pregnant, thinks she is pregnant, or is planning a pregnancy, the surest way to eliminate the risk of FASD is to avoid alcohol completely. Help is available for women who need support in addressing their alcohol use.”

More information about alcohol and pregnancy is available online at www.alcoholfreepregnancy.ca or by contacting Motherisk at 1-877-FAS-INFO (1-877-327-4636).

Photo: DepositPhotos.com Andrey Armyagov