UNFC holds annual pancake breakfast to raise FASD awareness

Merna Emara
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The United Native Friendship Centre held their annual breakfast on Wednesday to raise awareness on fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). Due to COVID-19 restrictions on the amount of people in one building, the pancake meals were given outside of the building either by drive-thru or walkup. This pancake breakfast was also held in partnership with the FASD community partners in the Rainy River District.

Sarah DeGagne, one of the prenatal nutrition workers at the UNFC, said this day symbolizes length of time that a pregnant woman should avoid drinking alcohol.

“At 9:09 a.m. on this day we usually ring bells to symbolize the nine months of abstaining from alcohol,” DeGagne said.

“It is all about the ninth day of the ninth month, the ninth hour, representing nine months of pregnancy that a woman should abstain from alcohol to avoid fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.”

According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are a group of conditions that can occur in a person whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy.

These effects can include physical problems and problems with behaviour and learning.

A baby born with fetal alcohol syndrome has a small head, weighs less than other babies and has distinctive facial features, the CDC states.

“Some of the behavioural and intellectual disabilities of people with FASDs include difficulty with learning or memory, higher than normal level of activity (hyperactivity), difficulty with attention, speech and language delays, low IQ, poor reasoning and judgement skills. People with FASDs can also have problems with their organs, including the heart and kidneys,” according to an information sheet by the CDC.

That means women should not drink alcohol when they are pregnant, trying to get pregnant or even if they think they might be pregnant. DeGagne said the best thing a woman can do is to stop consuming alcohol as soon as she has an idea that she might be pregnant. This is because a woman could get pregnant and not know it for up to six weeks.

“She should then make a doctor appointment and have a very open and honest conversation with her doctor,” DeGagne said.

“When a woman asks about something like that I really encourage her to talk to her doctor and to always be honest because doctors never judge and service providers don’t judge. We just want to help.”

The CDC states that there is no known amount of alcohol that is safe to drink during pregnancy or when trying to get pregnant. All drinks that contain alcohol, including wine and beer, can harm an unborn baby. Health professionals say there is no safe time to drink alcohol during pregnancy.

Research also suggest that FASDs last a lifetime. However, with early diagnosis, treatment services can improve a child’s development.

DeGagne said the UNFC can put parents or guardians of babies and children suffering FASD in touch with caregivers’ support group to be able to support the child that is in their home. The UNFC also offers a prenatal nutrition program specifically for families who are expecting or have infants up to six months of age.