The safest approach to drinking alcohol during pregnancy is not to drink alcohol at any stage of pregnancy. Scientific evidence is conclusive, consuming alcohol while pregnant can cause the fetus harm, with life-long brain damage being the most serious result. Research has also shown that about half of all pregnancies are unintended. A woman of child bearing age may continue drinking unaware of her pregnancy. And while statistics reveal that 70 per cent of women between 15 and 24 drink alcohol, the highest rates of unplanned pregnancies occur in women age 15-19, which also is the cohort that is more prone to binge drinking. In addition, FASD is likely to be unrecognized in babies and young children until they are in school years or are teenagers and challenges related to brain injuries of prenatal alcohol exposure become more noticeable. Even then there is a resistance to seek a diagnosis because of the stigma associated with substance use and the lack of assessment and diagnosis services. especially in remote areas.
FASD affects executive functioning, communication and neuromotor skills, increasing risks for educational failure, maintaining continuous employment, exposure to criminality, disrupting families and homelessness. The indirect and direct costs for support services of health services, mental health, social services, and education, as well as the negative costs through criminality and criminal justice system involvement, are estimated to be almost $10B/year. It is critical that we work at lessening FASD’s impact on individuals, families, and society.