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Taranaki DHB raises awareness of FASD’s lifelong effects

Taranaki DHB raises awareness of FASD’s lifelong effects

In the build up to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) awareness day on Wednesday 9 September 2015, Taranaki DHB is reminding pregnant women and those who are planning to become pregnant to protect their unborn child’s health by avoiding all alcohol.

FASD is an umbrella term used to describe a wide range of adverse effects on fetal development that are the result of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. This includes Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorders (ARND).

Any alcohol a mother consumes passes freely through the placenta directly into her baby’s bloodstream, which means her unborn baby is exposed to the same levels of alcohol as she is.” says Jill Nicholls, Taranaki DHB Health Promoter. “FASD is 100 percent avoidable - if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, the best advice is to avoid alcohol completely,” she added.

While a mother can metabolize alcohol, her baby cannot and this has a dramatic effect on fetal development. Even small amounts of alcohol consumed at any time during pregnancy can cause harm to the baby including miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, low birth weight, distinctive facial features, heart defects, physical, emotional and behavioural problems and intellectual disabilities.

According to the Health Promotions Agency (HPA) approximately 50 percent of women drink alcohol in early pregnancy before they know they are pregnant, inadvertently exposing their developing baby to risk. “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,” said Mrs Nicholls.

This can put unborn babies at risk in early pregnancy of FASD, and New Zealand’s binge drinking culture further exacerbates this risk. Variation in effects of FASD can be due to the baby’s stage of development at the time of exposure.

“Many women believe one or two drinks occasionally won’t hurt their unborn baby but there is no known safe level of alcohol consumption at any stage during pregnancy,” said Ms Nicholls. “There is no cure for FASD and its effects last a lifetime for the child and their family, she added. “

Taranaki DHB strongly advises 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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