Ok, so I’m a few days late, I apologise, but last week was the International FASD Awareness Day…. I hope the image gave it away, its a day about raising awareness of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, or FASD.

Community events to mark FASD Awareness Day now take place around the world with communities traditionally pausing at 9.09am, the 9th minute of the 9th hour of the 9th day of the 9th month of the year, representing the 9 months of pregnancy. This time provides us with an opportunity to pause to reflect and consider the choice to have an alcohol free pregnancy and to share this prevention message across the world. 

Still I can hear some people confused and you could be forgiven – it isn’t by any means a ‘trending’ topic, but you know what, in my opinion, it should be.

By definition – Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) is a term used for a spectrum of conditions caused by fetal alcohol exposure.

By experience, these conditions impact sufferers for a lifetime and cannot be cured.

Alcohol can cause damage to the unborn child at any time during pregnancy and the level of harm is dependent on the amount and frequency of alcohol use which may be moderated by factors such as intergenerational alcohol use, parent age and health of the mother (nutrition, tobacco use) and environmental factors like stress (exposure to violence, poverty).

The primary conditions common to FASD last a lifetime and may include the following which vary from person to person:

  • learning difficulties
  • impulsiveness
  • difficulty relating actions to consequences
  • difficulty with social relationships
  • attention/hyperactivity
  • memory problems
  • developmental delays
  • major organ damage

These conditions have been referred to as an ‘invisible disability’ as they often aren’t diagnosed or are overlooked.  And the number of health services that diagnose and manage these conditions in Australia are by no means adequate.

The main messages I want you to take away is that

  • there are people living in our community, who may or may not be diagnosed, but who are definitely show signs of the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.
  • No amount of alcohol is recommended as SAFE in pregnancy – the best way to avoid FASD is to NOT DRINK AT ALL WHILST PREGNANT.  And its not just the woman who is responsible – interestingly, studies have shown that the alcohol intake of the male partner can also have an effect on the sperm and therefore fetal development.
  • for more information on this often, though vitally important health topic, I encourage you to head to http://www.nofasd.org.au

And next time you think about encouraging a pregnant woman to ‘just have one drink’ – don’t!!  The effects can be much more long lasting than you once thought.