Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is the leading known cause of developmental disability;
Maybe you think it can’t happen to you? You are somehow immune to the possibility of giving birth to a child with FASD. Recently I learned this: in studies done on mice exposed to alcohol, you could see the impact of the alcohol by day seven. Now think about that for a second. How many women know they are pregnant by day seven?
Culturally I have heard this one even from local medical experts: “Well if FASD was even real wouldn’t people in Europe have it?”
Yes they would and they do. Drinking and FASD are not exclusive to a specific geography. We don’t keep statistics of the numbers of children born with FASD in Canada, but in the US an estimated 3 out of 1000 children are born with FASD. In areas of Europe like Ireland the rate of FASD is high. In one province of ltaly statistics show between 4-7 out of 1000 babies born with FASD.
A Paediatric Neuropsychiatrist at University of Minnesota Jeff Wozniak recently stated that if you drink when you are pregnant, nobody is immune. Culture doesn't protect you, nor does social status.
Canada’s new low risk guidelines for drinking recommend no alcohol for women who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or women who are breastfeeding.
In areas of North America we once thought FASD was a First Nations issue. We know now that FASD impacts everyone. Here are the facts: If you drink when pregnant the alcohol crosses the placenta so that a fetus is also drinking alcohol. That prenatal alcohol exposure cause changes to the developing brain at a cellular level. That resulting brain damage often looks like impulse control issues and learning deficits. Other symptoms include sleep deficits, heart and kidney abnormalities, seizures, difficulty regulating emotions, lifelong difficulties with sequencing, math, planning, understanding abstract concepts, managing money and time.
If you are young, in college or university, you can be at high risk simply because you are at your most fertile, plus the culture of studying, partying and drinking can lead to unplanned pregnancy.
One of the current groups challenging researchers and public health workers is women over age 30. This group can be very affluent, with careers where social drinking is the norm. But this is also a demographic at even higher risk of having a child with a birth abnormality to begin with, so if you add alcohol to the mix that combination can be very volatile.
If you want to read more about FASD pick up the book by Bonnie Buxton called 'Damaged Angels'. If you suspect your child has FASD connect with a local support group. Diagnosis is important to help a child with FASD succeed.
Guest Post by Paula Schuck, whose daughter, Ainsley, has FASD (fetal alcohol spectrum disorder). FASD is a largely preventable brain injury sustained because Ainsley's birth mother drank while pregnant with her. Paula is a resource parent for the Children’s Aid Society of London-Middlesex and often writes about FASD on her blog Thrifty Momma’s Tips. Follow Paula on Twitter @inkscrblr