Awareness and Prevention
Prevention strategies in Alberta focus on supporting women who have given birth to one or more children affected by FASD, and those who are known to be pregnant and are consuming alcohol or other harmful substances. Services may include mentoring, substance abuse treatment, counselling, specialized prenatal and postpartum support.
Prevention strategies also include supporting women of childbearing age who use substances and who are not pregnant. Activities include outreach, screening, referrals and brief intervention activities.
Prevention support services are specialized, culturally safe and accessible for women who use substances. Trauma-informed and harm-reduction oriented services support women to reduce or stop alcohol and/or drug use during pregnancy, and support healthy pregnancies.
How to prevent FASD
Research shows alcohol can harm a fetus. Since the fetus’ brain and body are developing throughout the pregnancy, drinking alcohol may cause harm at any time. If you are pregnant, there is no safe amount or type of alcohol to drink or trimester when it is safe to drink. This means no alcohol is best. No exposure equals no risk.
A healthy baby is not just a mother’s responsibility. The support of her partner, family, friends and the community goes a long way to help in supporting healthy pregnancies and families. This includes:
- managing stresses by talking about worries, taking one thing at a time and getting enough health food, exercise sleep and rest
- being patient and supportive
- helping with housework and caring for other children or family
- putting her needs first and asking others not to drink alcohol around her
- getting professional help if needed, such as counselling
Prevention of FASD is a Shared Responsibility
All women want the best for their child; a healthy baby is something that every mother wishes for during their pregnancy. The days leading up to the birth of a child are the most crucial in their lifespan.
In the Past, people did not know alcohol could harm a baby. But research shows that alcohol passes from you to the baby. The more you drink, the more harmful it can be. Alcohol is in liquor, liqueurs, Coolers, and wine.
‘During the pregnancy, any alcohol you drink can affect your baby’
Alcohol consumption is also a common activity in our society. Unfortunately, alcohol use during pregnancy increases the risk of pregnancy complications and harm to the fetus. There is no known safe time or amount to drink during pregnancy.
Reduce your Risk and Be Safe: Alcohol Free Pregnancy.
Remember that friends, family and community members can all help a pregnant woman not to drink during pregnancy- the prevention of FASD is therefore a shared responsibility.
Is there a safe time to drink alcohol?
There is NO safe TIME to drink alcohol during pregnancy.
What if I had a couple of drinks before I knew I was pregnant?
-If you are pregnant and still drinking, let’s stop it as soon as possible. Any concerns should be discussed with your doctor.
It is never too late to quit or cut down.
Both you and your baby will benefit. Call a community health nurse, counselor, or doctor you trust for more information or support.
Every case is different, and just because you consumed alcohol during pregnancy does not mean you will automatically have a child with FASD. Many factors affect the amount of damage from alcohol to the unborn baby. Some of the factors include how much alcohol a pregnant woman drinks. It also includes how far along she is in her pregnancy, how well she is nourished (the type of food she eats), and her genetic make-up including her ability to metabolize (digest) alcohol.
Is it OK to have a few drinks at a special event?
Alcohol causes brain damage in the developing baby. There is no safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy. There is also no safe TIME to drink alcohol during pregnancy.
We know that a baby’s brain is very sensitive to alcohol while it is developing, and research about the exact amount of alcohol it takes to cause brain damage is ongoing and inconclusive. The safest option is to avoid alcohol completely throughout your pregnancy.
If you are finding it difficult to avoid alcohol during your pregnancy and need assistance, please call NEAFAN’s PCAP program.
Binge drinking– or drinking a large amount of alcohol in a short amount of time – is especially damaging to the developing baby.
What is Binge Drinking?
Binge Drinking refers to the heavy consumption of alcohol over a short period of time. If you drink three or more drinks per occasion, that is considered as binge drinking.
North Americans in general, and Canadians in particular drink more than 50 per cent above the global average, and show a more detrimental drinking patterns than most EU(European Union) countries, with more bingeing.
Binge drinking and FASD
Binge drinking has been found to be the most damaging form of alcohol consumption on fetal development because it produces the highest BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) and it is the peak BAC that affects the developing fetus most negatively.
It is easy to see why. You (or your friends) might have used alcohol or other drugs during another pregnancy. And those children seem perfectly healthy. ‘Newborns don’t always show the effects caused by alcohol and other drugs right away. It can take a few years before you see the problems’
Or you feel confused by all the different information you hear. You are right- information about alcohol and other drug use during pregnancy can be confusing. But we know this for sure: using alcohol and other drugs during pregnancy can cause babies to have learning, behavior, or health problems as they grow up.
Stopping and Cutting down Drinking
Stopping or cutting down drinking alcohol while pregnant will make the baby healthier. No alcohol during pregnancy is the best (and the safest) choice for having a healthy baby. If you are planning a pregnancy or not using reliable birth control, avoid alcohol.
“FASD can be prevented, and FASD prevention is a shared responsibility”
What if it is hard to quit or cut down?
Some women will find it more difficult than others. This has nothing to do with willpower. It depends on your situation and how much, how often, and how long you have been drinking. Sometimes, pregnant women keep drinking because it seems easier than trying to quit or cut down. But here are some suggestions:
If they are supportive, ask your partner, family, and friends to help. Tell them you are trying to quit or cut down. Ask them not to drink around you, it is your right.
Source: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Public Health Agency of Canada
Public release date: 4-Mar-2013
Other resource about binge drinking:
Binge Drinking : Wikipedia
Maternal Risk Factors for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders – Not as Simple As it Might Seem By Philip A. May. PH.D. and J. Philip Gossage, PH.D.
Prevention Conversation- A Shared Responsibility. The program aims to raise awareness of FASD and Prevention among target populations including Healthcare and Social Service Providers, Women of Childbearing Age(18-45), Partners, Families and Friends. The Project is geared towards highlighting the importance of screening all women in child bearing age for alcohol use and risks associated with FASD, improve supports for these women and promote involvement of community members and primary care providers. The Prevention Conversation is aimed at encouraging a community wide awareness of FASD and prevention, developing the skills within the community to engage in non-judgmental, empathetic conversations about alcohol use during pregnancy. The Prevention Conversation is centered around increasing our knowledge of FASD, training service providers on the use of screening tools to engage women in the Prevention Conversation. To book a Prevention Conversation presentation, please contact:
FASD Prevention Conversation Facilitator
McMan Youth, Family and Community Services Assoc.
Fort McMurray, AB