Today is International Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Awareness Day and serves as a worldwide initiative to increase awareness regarding Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). The day also serves as an opportunity to showcase some of the international trends and programmes that various countries are involved with, as well as how different countries create awareness and reduce FASD prevalence within their communities.
What happens when a pregnant woman drinks?
If a person drinks alcohol, it moves into their blood stream and in the case of a pregnant woman, is carried through the placental tissue that separates the mother and baby’s blood systems. This means the alcohol is delivered directly to the developing tissues of the fetus. This alcohol is especially devastating for the baby’s brain development as the alcohol crosses the blood-brain barrier with ease.
How does alcohol affect the fetus?
The harmful effects of alcohol can damage the fetus throughout pregnancy and are not isolated to a particular time during a pregnancy. The severity of the FASD depends on the quantity and timing of the mothers drinking during her pregnancy, together with numerous other factors such as:
- The mothers’ body mass index
- Food consumption at the time the alcohol was ingested
- Other substance use such as smoking
How much can pregnant women drink?
There is no known safe amount of alcohol pregnant women can drink without raising the risk of damaging their unborn babies. All pregnant mothers who drink alcohol are at risk of producing a baby with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). While some schools of thought say a woman can have the odd drink every now and again, it would be safest to abstain for the duration of the pregnancy.
FAS symptoms include:
- Small head size
- Growth retardation before and after birth (height and weight)
- Intellectual disability (brain damage)
- Specific facial features in some children
- Organ anomalies such as heart defects
In addition, babies/children with FASD may present with a variety of learning, behavioural and psychological problems without having any physical abnormalities.
Written by Samantha Parrish