September is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Awareness Month

The Women's Healthcare Group is joining the cause to increase awareness of the risks of drinking alcohol while pregnant. The U.S. Surgeon General advises pregnant women and women who are considering becoming pregnant to abstain from alcohol consumption to eliminate alcohol-exposed pregnancies,1 yet it is estimated that 40,000 babies are born each year with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs), an umbrella term describing the range of effects that can occur in an individual who was exposed to alcohol before birth.

During pregnancy, a developing baby is exposed to the same concentration of alcohol as the pregnant woman. No amount of alcohol use is known to be safe for a developing baby before birth. Exposure to alcohol from any type of beverage, including beer and wine, is unsafe for developing babies at every stage of pregnancy. FASDs are preventable if a developing baby is not exposed to alcohol before birth.

FASDs can impact a child ’s physical, mental, behavioral, or cognitive development. The most visible condition along the continuum of FASDs, fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), is characterized by growth deficiencies, central nervous system disabilities, and specific facial characteristics. The number of children born with FAS alone is comparable to spina bifida or Down syndrome.3

Studies show that up to 1 in 20 U.S. school children may be on the FASD spectrum, a rate that is comparable to autism.

Prenatal alcohol exposure is associated with an increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, prematurity and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), as well as a range of lifelong physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities.

To prevent FASDs: make a plan for a healthy baby --don’t drink any alcohol if you are pregnant or may be pregnant. A woman often does not know she is pregnant for up to 4 to 6 weeks. If you become pregnant, stop drinking alcohol. Every day matters. Because brain growth takes place throughout pregnancy, the sooner a woman stops drinking the safer it will be for her and her baby. Pregnant women that need help in stopping their drinking can talk to their doctor, contact an addiction specialist or contact a recovery program such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

Human service organizations, health care professionals, educators, and the public are called to action to work together to reduce the occurrence of FASDs by increasing awareness, becoming educated, and disseminating the message that women that are pregnant or might be pregnant should abstain from alcohol.

For more information on alcohol use during pregnancy and FASDs, visit www.nofas.org or www.cdc.gov/fasd.

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