Anytime is a good time to raise awareness about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders but every year, on September 9th, International Fetal Awareness Spectrum Disorder Awareness Day is observed. People all around the world gather for events to raise awareness about the dangers of drinking during pregnancy and the plight of individuals and families who struggle with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). This day was chosen so that on the ninth day of the ninth month of the year, the world will remember that during the nine months of pregnancy a woman should abstain from alcohol (FasWorld, 2013). The theme for this year is NO AMOUNT OF ALCOHOL IS SAFE DURING PREGNANCY.
According to Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (2016), there is no known safe amount of alcohol use during pregnancy or while trying to get pregnant. There is also no safe time during pregnancy to drink. All types of alcohol are equally harmful, including all wines and beer. When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, so does her baby.
What is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder?
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) is an umbrella term describing the range ofeffects that can occur in an individual whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. These effects may include physical, mental, behavioral, and/or learning disabilities with possible lifelong implications. An individual would not receive a diagnosis of FASD.Four diagnoses fall under the umbrella of FASD, namely, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Static Encephalopathy/Alcohol Exposed and Neurobehavioral Disorder/Alcohol Exposed (FAS Diagnostic and Prevention Network, n.d.).
There’s no guarantee that a baby will be born healthy or grow up healthy. However, there is an absolute guarantee that a child will not have a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) if a mother does not drink alcohol while pregnant. No alcohol during pregnancy is the safest choice (American Academy of Paediatrics, 2016).
An estimated 40,000 babies are born each year with FASDs, which can result in birth defects, intellectual or learning disabilities, behavior problems and trouble learning life skills. These difficulties last a lifetime. FASDs are completely preventable by abstaining from alcohol while pregnant (and while trying to conceive). Despite myths, there is no scientific evidence available that sets a “safe” amount of alcohol that will not affect the developing fetus (American Academy of Paediatrics, 2016).
Drinking alcohol in the first three months of pregnancy can cause the baby to have abnormal facial features. Growth and central nervous system problems (e.g., low birth weight, behavioral problems) can occur from drinking alcohol anytime during pregnancy. The baby’s brain is developing throughout pregnancy and can be affected by exposure to alcohol at any time (CDC, 2016).
If a woman is drinking alcohol during pregnancy, it is never too late to stop. The sooner a woman stops drinking, the better it will be for both her baby and herself. FASDs are completely preventable if a woman does not drink alcohol during pregnancy (CDC, 2016).
Women are encouraged to talk with their obstetricians, pediatricians and other health care providers so they can not only understand the risks, but also make the best choice for the health of their baby (American Academy of Paediatrics, 2016).
Focusing on reducing the incidence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, it is imperative to raise awareness on substance abuse and its effects; awareness should be created on FASD; there should be capacity building of health care providers, educator, social workers, other relevant stakeholders to identity women at risk and offer suitable intervention to stop alcohol usage in pregnancy and make appropriate referrals for diagnosing and offer comprehensive management; and early identification, prevention, management of people with FASD.
The cost of managing any birth defect is more than the cost of preventing it. In other words, prevention is more cost-effective than management or treatment.
INR-FCNSWZN joins the rest of the world in declaring war against FASD.
FASD is 100% preventable.
Avoid drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
American Academy of Pediatrics (2016). Alcohol and pregnancy: It’s just not worth the risk. Retrieved from http://www.aap.org
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2016). Alcohol use in pregnancy. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fasd/index.html
FAS Diagnostic and Prevention Network (n.d.). The 4 diagnoses under the FASD umbrella. Retrieved from https://depts.washington.edu/fasdpn/htmls/fasd-fas.htm
FasWorld (2013). FASD awareness day September 9th. Retrieved from http://www.fasday.com/
Faleti, Daniel D.
Olaniyi, Glory D.
For: Institute of Nursing Research, Fellowship of Christian Nurses, South West Zone, Nigeria.