On September 9, more than 30 communities and organizations throughout Saskatchewan are helping to raise awareness about a preventable lifelong disability - Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) that as many as 150 Saskatchewan children are born with each year. FASD describes the permanent birth defects and brain injury that can happen to the unborn baby when a woman drinks alcohol while pregnant.
"FASD: Let's talk about it" is this year's theme. Open houses, balloon liftoffs, church bell ringing, walks, luncheons, pancake breakFASDs, culture camps, poster competitions, information booths, and BBQs will take place throughout the province.
FASD is a preventable disability. Alcohol is able to cross the placenta. It can act as a poison and damage an unborn baby's developing cells. The unborn baby's liver cannot get rid of alcohol like an adult's so each drink has more time to do damage. The baby's organs develop at different times during pregnancy but the baby's brain develops for the full nine months. As a result, there is no safe time or amount to drink. Each mother and pregnancy is different, and the expert consensus is there is no amount of alcohol that can be guaranteed to be safe.
Alcohol does not discriminate. Anyone in their child bearing years who drinks during pregnancy can have a child with an FASD. This includes teens, women in mid-life, those living in wealth and in poverty, binge drinkers and wine-drinkers.
By raising awareness of the harm alcohol can cause a developing baby, it is hoped women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy will quit using alcohol or ask for help. There are many reasons a woman may drink. She may not know she is pregnant (up to 50% of pregnancies are unplanned). She may not have heard about the information on preventing an FASD, or she may have heard conflicting facts. She may be unable to quit because of alcohol dependency, lack of access to services, or have an unsupportive partner.
The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates that 1 out of every 100 children have an FASD. That means that in 2012, at least 150 Saskatchewan babies were born with an FASD. Some researchers believe that as many as 2% to 5% of babies are born with an FASD. If we use that number, as many as 752 Saskatchewan babies may have been born with this lifelong disability in 2012.
On September 9, watch for BreakFASDs, luncheons, walks, BBQs and other activities. Look for the Saskatchewan Prevention Institute's new 'No thanks I'm pregnant' tent cards in your local bars and restaurants. Let's keep the conversation going. For more information about the prevention of FASD, go to skprevention.ca/fetal-alcohol-spectrum-disorder.