September 9th; Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Awareness Day
Every year on September 9th, International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Awareness Day is observed around the world. The first FASD Awareness Day was celebrated on 9/9/99. This day was chosen to symbolize the nine months of pregnancy, promoting a healthy, and alcohol free lifestyle during this time.
Prevention of FASD is about working together, healing people and healing communities.
In my work, providing parent supports and awareness about FASD, I often find myself fielding statement such as ‘I heard moderate drinking during pregnancy is ok; it was it on the news.’ The unfortunate part is that reports like this do periodically make headlines. And when they do, phones ring off the hook in FASD communities around the world. FASD experts band together and begin the frustrating task of damage control, making official statements and filtering accurate information back to the public.
I also hear comments like ‘my mom drank with me and I am fine!’ These statements are often followed up with a teasing comment from a friend such as ‘that is a matter of opinion.’ But in all seriousness, yes, some children who have been exposed seem fine while others are very impacted. How this is explained you ask? FASD experts know that there are many contributing factors such as timing, amount of alcohol consumed, and the health of both parents (just to name a few), but what we cannot do is predict which child might be affected. This is why the only true statement regarding the risks of prenatal alcohol exposure is that ‘there is no known safe amount, time or type of alcohol to consume during pregnancy.’ Studies suggesting otherwise cannot be one hundred percent accurate! With this in mind, it stands to reason that abstaining from alcohol during pregnancy is the only way to be sure to prevent the effects that alcohol can have on an unborn child.
If dispelling FASD myths was all that it took to prevent FASD, my work would be easy. I would soon whittle my way out of a job and find myself in the unemployment line (in this case a cause for celebration). The truth is, informing the public is only a fraction of the solution.
A large number of pregnancies in Canada are unplanned. Couple this with the high rate of alcohol consumption in all social groups and we begin to understand that women, in the early stages of their pregnancies, may use alcohol inadvertently causing damage to the unborn fetus.
Also, many people live with alcohol misuse issues, widely misunderstood by society to be a personal choice. It is my firm belief that no woman ever wants to hurt her child; however, stigmatized for the use of alcohol, pregnant women are less likely to seek out supports from family, friends and professionals to aid in their recovery. Even the most well meaning person can add to the guilt associated with alcohol use during pregnancy.
Partners can support their spouse by also avoiding alcohol before; during and after the pregnancy.
We can all help by promoting awareness in a non-shaming or blaming way. Partners can support their spouse by also avoiding alcohol before, during and after the pregnancy. The goal is to support all women of childbearing years to make healthy choices in pregnancy. Prevention of FASD is about working together, healing people and healing communities.
If you would like more information about FASD, if you drank during your pregnancy or if you think a child in your care might be affected by prenatal alcohol consumption, call Jenny McLeod, FASD Key Worker 250-286-0391 (all supports are confidential).
If you used drugs or alcohol during your pregnancy you can receive confidential supports from an international organization of mothers who have also used drugs or alcohol during their pregnancy. Contact the Circle of Hope Birth Mothers Network through Kathleen Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org or view their website at www.nofas.org.