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Alcohol-free pregnancies help give babies a healthy start

SIMCOE, AUGUST 30, 2013 – As International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Awareness Day approaches, experts are reminding women that regardless of the type of alcohol, or how far along the pregnancy is, alcohol consumption puts the baby at risk for FASD.

The message is not only being directed at expecting mothers, but also women who are planning a pregnancy, currently trying to conceive, or not using reliable birth control.

“Women who reach for a glass of water or an alcohol-free “mocktail” instead of an alcoholic drink are giving their baby the best chance to be as healthy as possible, said Angela Swick, public health nurse at the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit.

First observed on September 9, 1999, International FASD Awareness Day is observed every year on the ninth day of the ninth month. The date was chosen to illustrate that during the nine months of pregnancy a woman should abstain from alcohol.

To raise local awareness of FASD, the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Advocacy Committee, of which the Health Unit is a member, is holding a barbecue fundraiser on Sept. 7 at Sobeys, 438 Norfolk St., S. in Simcoe between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

FASD is an umbrella term used to describe the range of physical and mental birth defects caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol. When an expectant mother drinks, alcohol crosses the placenta and interferes with normal cell development in the fetus’ brain, nervous system and other organs.

“Consequences for the baby are lifelong and often devastating, as the alcohol causes permanent brain damage,” explained Swick. “The good news is that FASD is entirely preventable because alcohol use during pregnancy is the only cause of this disability.”

At one end of the spectrum, children with FASD may show effects in three different areas: distinct facial characteristics, smaller in size and weight and learning, social or behavioural issues. At the other end of the spectrum, children may show effects in only one or two of the areas.

Swick pointed out that there are misconceptions circulating about the risk of drinking during pregnancy, misconceptions such as a small amount is okay, or is allowed at certain times in the pregnancy.

“There is no way to know for sure what impact the alcohol is going to have on your unborn child,” said Swick.

Partners, family members and friends can also help ensure a woman has an alcohol-free pregnancy by making it easier for women to abstain. Simply offering non-alcoholic mocktails at a party or refraining from drinking as well during the pregnancy is a great way to support the mom-to-be.

More information on FASD, or the barbecue, can be found at www.hnhu.org or by calling the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit at 519-426-6170 Ext. 3201 or 905-318-6623 Ext. 3201.

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Media contact:
Angela Swick R.N, BScN
Public Health Nurse
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
Ext. 3201 at either 519-426-6170 or 905-318-6623
[email protected]