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Alcohol during pregnancy

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can have life long effects

On the eve of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) awareness day (Tuesday 9 September 2014) the Taranaki DHB wants to remind pregnant women as well as those women planning to become pregnant to avoid all alcohol.

“Drinking at any time during pregnancy may affect the normal development of the fetus,” says Jill Nicholls, Taranaki DHB Health Promoter. “If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, the best advice is to avoid alcohol completely.”

A study carried out in 2006 found that one out of every 10 babies born in Taranaki was at risk of FASD.

“The majority of women reduce or stop alcohol intake because of pregnancy, but more than half only do this once they know they are pregnant. This can put unborn babies at risk in early pregnancy of FASD, and our culture of binge drinking further exacerbates this risk,” commented Ms Nicholls.

If a woman drinks alcohol during pregnancy, her unborn baby is exposed to similar levels of alcohol as herself. The alcohol crosses from the woman’s blood through the placenta and into her baby’s bloodstream.

“Many women believe one or two drinks occasionally couldn’t possibly hurt their unborn baby but in fact there is no known safe level of consumption of alcohol for pregnant women,” said Ms Nicholls.

Even small amounts of alcohol consumed at any time during pregnancy can cause harm to the baby including low birth weight, distinctive facial features, heart defects, physical, emotional and behavioural problems and intellectual disabilities.

“There is no cure for FASD and its effects last a lifetime for the child and their family, said Ms Nicholls. “The message is very simple, if you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, the safest option is drinking no alcohol.”

The biggest risk factors are the amount of alcohol drunk and how often alcohol is drunk throughout the pregnancy. Frequent binge drinking puts the unborn baby at the most risk.

Ms Nicholls said “I strongly advise any pregnant woman who is worried that their drinking might be harmful to their unborn baby, to talk to their midwife or GP, or call the Alcohol and Drug Helpline on 0800 787 797”.


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