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International Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Day Tuesday

International Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Day Tuesday 9 September 2003

The Alcohol Advisory Council is warning pregnant women and those intending to become pregnant to avoid all alcohol.

Speaking in the lead up to International Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) Awareness Day (Tuesday September 9) ALAC Chief Executive Officer Dr Mike MacAvoy said alcohol is one drink the developing fetus does not need.

“Drinking at anytime during pregnancy may effect the normal development of the baby,” he said. “Not drinking at all is one sure way to increase the likelihood of a healthy baby.”

Launched in 1999, International FAS Day is designed to raise awareness amongst health professionals and the general population about FAS and the risks of drinking during pregnancy.

In Auckland, ALAC has worked with Lavea’i Trust, Alcohol Healthwatch Trust and the Auckland Fetal Alcohol Support Network who have organised a day long seminar to mark FAS Day.

The Fetal Alcohol Support Trust is holding an awareness programme beginning at 3pm today at the Chartwell Library, Hamilton.

In Auckland speakers from the Alcohol Healthwatch Trust and the Auckland Fetal Alcohol Support Network will share their knowledge and experience of FAS prevention and early intervention. The Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness Day will be held at the Town Hall 35 St Georges Street Papatoetoe on Tuesday 9th September 2003 from 8.00am to 1.00 pm.

Some Facts:

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE) are 100 percent preventable.

There are no known safe levels of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. The best advice is that women should avoid drinking if they are pregnant, planning to become pregnant or at risk of becoming pregnant.

One of the most severe effects of drinking during pregnancy is fetal alcohol syndrome, which includes physical deformities and brain damage. FAS represents the severe end of the spectrum.

Damage can occur at any time during pregnancy and the severity of the effects does not necessarily correspond to the level of alcohol intake.

In spite of increasing knowledge about the effects of drinking during pregnancy, babies continue to be exposed to high amounts of alcohol.

In 1999 a New Zealand study found that 81 percent of pregnant women drank alcohol and 29 percent continued after confirmation of the pregnancy.

Birth defects associated with prenatal alcohol exposure can occur in the first few weeks of pregnancy before a woman knows she is pregnant.

Present estimates of the prevalence of FAS/FAE in the NZ population are 2-3 per 1000 live births for FAS and 4-5 per 1000 live births for FAE. For comparison, NZ estimates for cystic fibrosis 1 per 3,000, cerebral palsy 1 –2.6 per 1000 and Downs syndrome 1 per 1000 live births.

Young women are drinking more and to the point of intoxication raising issues around unplanned, unprotected sex and pregnancy.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Effects can occur from just one heavy drinking occasion.

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