Today is International FASD Awareness Day

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 drinking alcohol.

You might want to take some time today to learn more about FASD and what’s happening in your community to address FASD.

I’ve pasted the answers to some of the Frequently Asked Questions from an FASD Toolkit created by the BC Ministries of Children and Family Development and Healthy Living Services, BC Women’s Hospital and Health Centre, and the Public Health Agency of Canada below. They cover some key points that might be helpful in starting a conversation about FASD with someone today.

I’ve also added a new link on the blog called “FASD Prevention 101” which lists key Canadian resources on preventing FASD (the link is at the top of the page). You can also find this list on the Healthy Choices in Pregnancy web site.

What is FASD?

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is an umbrella term used to describe the range of disabilities that can affect people whose are exposed to alcohol prenatally. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause brain damage in a developing fetus, resulting in lifelong problems with attention, memory, reasoning and judgment. Pre-natal exposure to alcohol can also result in physical disabilities such as vision and hearing problems, slow growth, heart problems and bones that are not properly formed. There is great variability in the characteristics of those affected by FASD, depending on such factors as the amount and timing of the mother’s drinking, mother’s nutrition and overall health, as well as genetic factors.

How big a problem is FASD? How many people are affected in Canada?

It is estimated that every year, approximately 3000 babies are born in Canada with FASD. We do not know the exact numbers of people living with FASD as FASD is not always diagnosed, and we are still developing adequate resources to
ensure individuals receive diagnosis and supports.

What has been proven to be effective in the prevention of FASD?

FASD can be prevented! Preventing FASD starts by increasing awareness of the harmful effects of drinking alcohol during pregnancy. Communities can work together to ensure that all women receive support with pregnancy planning, are able to find alternatives to alcohol use during pregnancy, and have access to prenatal care. Some women may need extra support to cut back on their drinking. For these women, addictions treatment services that are easy to access, and which provide respectful and holistic care are key. And, after the baby is born, mothers may need support and advocacy to continue with the healthy changes they made during pregnancy.

What are the economic and social costs of FASD?

FASD can have many health, social, and economic costs, for the individual, their families, health and social service systems and communities. For families the extra costs for medical and other treatments are estimated to be approximately $24,000 a year. It is estimated that the costs per individual over their lifetime for services can be over 1 million dollars. While many individuals with FASD lead fulfilling lives, many also have trouble with the law, drop out of school, have difficulties keeping a job, develop mental health problems, or become homeless.

What can communities do to help prevent FASD?

Communities can help prevent FASD in a number of ways, especially by helping to spread the word that it is safest not to drink during pregnancy. Friends and family members can all help a pregnant woman not to drink during pregnancy. If you work with women, learn about services in your community that can support women in avoiding alcohol use during pregnancy. Health care and social service providers can talk openly and supportively with women about drinking alcohol if they are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant and where to find support in they need assistance with avoiding alcohol during pregnancy. Bars can provide fun and tasty nonalcoholic options on their menu and liquor stores can hang posters with information about FASD.

How do I respond to people who say they have heard that it is okay for a woman to drink when she is pregnant?

Heavy drinking during pregnancy (either binge drinking or chronic use of alcohol) is clearly the most likely to cause harm to the fetus, as well as to a woman’s health. While very low levels of drinking such as one drink a week is unlikely to
cause harm, it is not possible to know a safe level of drinking for any particular woman. We do know that alcohol can be harmful to fetal development, which is why health professionals recommend that it is safest not to drink during pregnancy.

One thought on “Today is International FASD Awareness Day

  1. This is the story for my son Chris who is 15 months old complete ACC, Hypotonia, Encephalitis, True undescended testis, Hydrocephalus, VP shunt. It is a mouth full but I have learn to live with it. Just like his name: Christopher Giovanni Von Duynn. It is as longer then alphabet. Just like his disorder I had no choice in picking his name.

    Chris was born to a Latin mother and a Black Father on May 10,2010 at 2:56am in Arlington, Texas and weight was 6.8lbs. The first six weeks of his life dictated the path we are on now. Chris had above average prenatal care. More than a dozen visits and more than a dozen sonograms done.
    First lets begin with Chris mothers and fathers health history. His mother was type 2 diabetic and just prior to conceiving she had a staph infection. His father had a mild case of Holt Oram a hand heart disease, and Hypertension.
    Even with that history Chris is a child suffering from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. His mother was not an alcoholic but was binge drinking with in the beginning stages of pregnancy. Although there are a lot of other factor that play into the final outcome. Alcohol was a significant factor. Normally child born to a diabetic mother have what we call big baby syndromes. Chris was born under 8.5lbs. Chris was also born full term 39 weeks and still both testis were found by sonogram near his kidneys. Which puzzled doctors, do to his father not having any family history of it and also being a Black male. It is known in the medical world that it is more likely for a White male then a Black male or even an Asian male to have testicular cancer. With corrective surgery this would put Chris at a higher risk of testicular cancer.
    On the surface Chris looks normal but did have some settle uncommon facial features. After further genetic testing, the results show no genetic mutations found between mother or father. All test results came back normal. It is common among children and adults with ACC to have some mutated gene weather it be a deleted or duplicated gene. It is also common to find a genetic mutation between father and son with undescended testis but none were found.
    Although no one knows for sure what causes ACC, there is a list of causes in Chris case.
    Mother was issued medication prior to pregnancy and mother continued use of these medications. Medication are all give a pregnancy rating from what is least to greatest harmful to fetus. Chris’s mother was give a generic form of metformin. It is used to treat type 2 diabetics an helps to control blood sugar. Treatment is combined with diet and exercise. After prenatal visit she was switched to an insulin to control the blood sugar levels. She was also given an antibiotic for treatment of staph infection. She also under went Lazar surgery for staph infection and was also given an anti-depressant for the large scars left after surgery.
    Also Chris mother claim to have been on birth control named NuvaRing.
    The combination of these medication and alcohol caused many of the multiple mutation Chris has to live with today.
    Currently he is unable to crawl, roll over, walk, speak. He has eye site problems and breathing issues.
    The issues at hand is hospital don’t want to be stuck with a huge medical bill that is incurred with children of fetal alcohol disorders. Chris was born at MCA Woman’s Center, and released three days after birth with a brain abscess and shaking with multiple mutation undiagnosed. After his release doctor appointments were set every three months. Surgery for undescended testis occurred Dec of 2010 even though a cysts was discovered Aug of 2010. The cysts were not removed until Aug 29, 2011 after they have increased in size. A VP shunt was installed the week after. Between the time of Oct 24,2010 and July 6, 2011. Chris only gain 3lbs. He is currently at the weight of 17lbs at 15 month.
    Chris is getting therapy once a month through ECI. He has a long list of doctors and a long list of problems, which include second degree burn, lesions,blisters etc.
    CPS is also involved and legal litigation in family courts continues. A pile of medical bills and legal bills grow and Chris is left behind in his development. He is 15 months wearing size 3 in pampers and at about 6 month development stage. Long term out look: Chris’s health and quality of life is only as good as his medical team and will be totally dependent on his parents. Where does it end.

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