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International Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Day

8 September 2004

International Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Day

The Alcohol Advisory Council (ALAC) is again warning pregnant women and those planning to be pregnant to avoid all alcohol.

Speaking in the lead up to International Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) awareness day on Thursday 9 September, ALAC says that alcohol is one drink the developing fetus does not need.

“Drinking at any time during pregnancy may effect the normal development of the baby,” says ALAC Deputy Chief Executive Paula Snowden. “If you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or in a situation where you could become pregnant, don’t drink alcohol.”

Problems in children with FAS range from mental retardation to social and behavioural problems to learning difficulties.

Paula Snowden says many women have limited knowledge on the possible effects on the unborn baby of drinking while pregnant.

“Many women believe one or two drinks occasionally couldn’t possibly hurt the unborn baby but in fact there is no known safe level of consumption of alcohol for pregnant women. Unfortunately, medical advice on drinking during pregnancy is variable."

Paula Snowden said ALAC recently brought to New Zealand world-renowned experts on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder FASD (the term now used internationally to refer to FAS.)

The Asante Centre is an internationally recognised centre offering diagnostic, assessment and family support services, based on a multidisciplinary team approach, for children, youth and adults affected by FASD.

Paula Snowden said ALAC funded the Asante team to visit New Zealand to provide training, to help in the development of a strategic plan to tackle FAS and to increase awareness on the risks of alcohol use during pregnancy.

They presented best practice models for the treatment of children and adults suffering from the emotional, mental and behavioural problems resulting from prenatal exposure to alcohol.

Paula Snowden said the true extent of FAS in New Zealand was unknown and better diagnosis was essential to recognizing and treating the problem.

Present estimates of the prevalence of FAS in New Zealand are 2-3 per 1000 live births and 4-5 per 1000 live births for fetal alcohol effects. These estimates are based on overseas research.

It was essential for New Zealand to have robust evidence of its own on FAS, as there was a lack of agreement about the incidence and prevalence of FAS here, she said.

FAS Day was first observed on September 9, 1999 with a minute’s reflection at 9.09 am.

ENDS

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