I want to start a national campaign to challenge the government of every country to give clear and emphatic guidance to women – those of child-bearing years, about the dangers of producing a child with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) or fetal alcohol effects.
The guidance is very straightforward: if you think you may be pregnant, do not drink any alcohol at all.
Facts and figures
Various statistics put the numbers of known children and adults who suffer for the length of their lives with this condition.
First discovered by two doctors in the US in 1973, how serious the condition is depends on how much alcohol a mother drank during pregnancy. It is thought to affect as many as one in every 500 babies born in Western countries. www.drinkaware.co.uk
Prenatal alcohol exposure has multiple adverse outcomes, the most serious of which are mortality and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum disorders (Bird and Christensen 2009). Fetal Alcohol Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is the most common non-genetic cause of learning disability in the UK (Plant 1985; Plant et al 1999: Autti-Ramo 2002; British Medical Association 2007; May and Gossage 2001; Sampson et al 1997. Affecting around 1% of live births in Europe (Autti-Ramo 2002) and costing an estimated £2.9 million per individual across their lifespan (Peadon et al 2008)
There is no other way.
Despite the different research programmes, there is no one who can state with absolute confidence when there is a ‘safe period’ during pregnancy when alcohol will not affect the fetus. Each of the children damaged by their birth mother’s ignorance or deliberate rejection of advice with regard to drinking costs us all. These children will never be fully able to take an independent role in society, and most of them will be unable to live independently or have normal relationships. They remain vulnerable to those who choose to exploit their naivety or who will encourage them to commit illegal acts and then be placed in prison or other reform settings.
Most people with FAS are never diagnosed, because doing so may stretch the corporate purse too far. There are many children who are wrongly diagnosed with accompanying conditions such as ADHD or autism or sociopathic tendencies. All of these symptoms are real for the child, but the bottom line is, their mothers drank during pregnancy and did not consider the effect on their unborn baby.
Children with FASD and FAS Effects are not all the product of addicted parents. This is a misunderstanding. Binge drinking and regular alcoholic consumption make the chances of being pregnant with a child damaged by that drug obviously much higher, but you may be just an ordinary woman living an ordinary life who is happily pregnant but no one has stressed to you the importance of abstaining from all alcohol during your pregnancy.
THERE IS NO SAFE TIME TO DRINK .
I have mentioned in a previous article the conflicting advice given in different countries around the world. This adds to the confusion. The direct results of FAS for the baby are a compilation of the following – most children have at least four or five of these symptoms:
• Failure to thrive
• Poor sleep patterns
• Screaming for no apparent reason
• Tantrums which worsen as they get older
• Violent outbursts which worsen as they get older
• Inability to be able to concentrate or listen
• Inability to read or write at an appropriate age
• Behavioural challenges which include tearing up and eating paper or hair or other materials
• Inability to understand humour or sarcasm
• Inability to be reasonable
• Everything said to them is taken literally
• Inability to keep friends of normal development
• Frustration because they begin to understand that they are not like their peers
• Lack of in-built awareness of danger or harm
• Inability to stop being irritating or frightening – no off switch
• Lack of pain sensation
• Life-limiting conditions
• Vulnerability to exploitation by unscrupulous people throughout their lives
• Lack of real facilities for their care when adult
• Likelihood of being made fun of or teased throughout their lives
• Development of mental health symptoms
The list is endless. These are just a few of the things that parents of children and babies with FAS and its effects have noted.
Please, please take heed.
If you are pregnant or think you may be, please do not have another drink until you know for sure or until your baby is born. This is a legacy that most mothers do not wish to pass on to their children.