Crucial message

Brenda McPherson
Jocelynn Rancourt

Dear editor:
We are writing this letter to bring awareness about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), which is an umbrella term that describes a range of disabilities that occur as a direct result of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
Consumption of alcohol during pregnancy is one of the most harmful and dangerous things a mother can do to her unborn child as alcohol is rapidly passed through the placenta to the unborn baby.
Because many internal organs are not fully developed, the fetus is not capable of eliminating alcohol from their system the way an adult can.
A single occasion of high alcohol intake during pregnancy is enough to damage the unborn child for life. Drinking large amounts of alcohol on a regular basis during pregnancy, or drinking heavily during a critical stage of fetal development, can cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS).
FAS can cause a number of physical deformities, such as facial features, internal organ problems, and skeletal deformities. FAS also is the leading cause of mental disabilities.
Some of the possible symptoms are impaired memory, learning disabilities, decreased intellect, and the inability to use logic and control behaviour.
Many people born with FAS are not able to live independently due to their decreased mental capacities.
Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE) is a less severe form of damage. Attention deficit disorder (ADD), decreased intellect and behavioural problems, and low birth weight are associated with FAE.
Both FAS and FAE are lifelong and there is no cure.
While some of the facial deformities associated with FAS tend to decrease after puberty, the mental disabilities, especially the inability to control behaviour, tend to increase.
FAS and FAE and 100 percent preventable. Since there is no known safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, women who are pregnant—or are planning to become pregnant—should not drink any kind of alcohol.
The critical stages of development occur in the first few weeks of pregnancy, and it is possible for a woman to cause the fetus severe damage before she even knows she is pregnant if she drinks alcohol.
Despite the fact that researchers have known the effects of alcohol consumption by pregnant women for years, it still is common. More babies are born with FAS/FAE from their mother’s drinking of alcohol than those with Down Syndrome, HIV, and autism.
So please take a moment of reflection this Sunday (Sept. 9) at 9:09 a.m. for everyone who was born with FAS/FAE.
Remember, alcohol and pregnancy doesn’t mix.
Brenda McPherson
and Jocelynn Rancourt,
Aboriginal FAS/FAE &
Child Nutrition Program,
Health Access Centre