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Pregnant women shouldn’t take the risk

July 4, 2002

“You’ve got nine months to prepare for a perfect baby. You’ve got the rest of your life to have a drink. Why take the risk?” asks the Alcohol Advisory Council’s Chief Executive Dr Mike MacAvoy.

“ALAC is pleased to see the issue of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) being discussed again,” Dr MacAvoy says. “This is an issue which has concerned ALAC for some time.”

Dr MacAvoy was commenting on a study which has just been published in the New Zealand Medical Journal. The study revealed that 26 percent of the 655 women surveyed, all 20 weeks to 24 weeks pregnant, had drunk alcohol in the preceding seven days.

Dr MacAvoy says drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause permanent brain damage and physical deformities to the unborn child which are totally preventable.

“Women appear to be receiving mixed advice while they’re pregnant. We suggest the best advice is don’t drink any alcohol during pregnancy, and if you are drinking, stop. If you can’t stop drinking, seek advice from your health provider.

“Women need a clear message about this and their health professionals and families need to support them to make no-alcohol choices for the nine months they are pregnant.

“Nine months out of a woman’s lifetime isn’t long – but it can make an enormous difference to the quality of their child’s life.”

The true extent of FAS in New Zealand is unknown the Ministry of Health estimates 2-3 per 1000 live births for FAS and 4-5 per 1000 live births for partial FAS. These numbers are higher than Cystic Fibrosis at 1 per 3000 live births, Downs Syndrome at 1 per 1000 and Cerebral Palsy at 1-2.6 per 1000.

Last year ALAC ran a campaign to inform women and their families and health professionals of the risk of FAS if women drank alcohol during pregnancy.

Further information is available from the Alcohol Helpline. Call free 0800 787 797.

[ends]

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