Raising awareness

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) affects as many as 40,000 infants each year. September 9 is national FASD awareness day. This date is used to remind women not to drink during the nine months of pregnancy. The first FASD awareness day was held September 9, 1999, and since then has been held annually to promote awareness, education and to help increase compassion for individuals and families impacted by the effects of FASD.

FASD is the spectrum of disorders that relates to fetal alcohol exposure. Alcohol does not have an effect on every child born to a mother who consumes alcohol while pregnant. However an unborn baby is at risk every time a pregnant woman drinks any amount of alcohol. According to the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, FASD affects 1 in 100 infants each year, which is more than autism, cerebral palsy and sudden infant death syndrome combined.

FASD can cause sleep and sucking problems in infants. As people with FASD get older they can have poor reasoning and judgment skills. Other problems include physical abnormalities, mental health problems, trouble with the law, unemployment, inappropriate sexual behaviors, and disruptive behavior in school. According to Streissguth, AP, Bookstein, FL, Barr M, et al, 94 percent of people aged 6-51 with FASD have mental health problems and 60 percent have trouble with the law.

FASD is not the same as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome so babies can look normal and have normal intelligence yet still have learning and social problems. Alcohol can have a negative impact on every trimester of pregnancy, and there is no safe amount to drink while pregnant. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2008) 38 percent of women between the childbearing ages 18-44 consume alcohol in Kentucky. Women should not drink if they are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or could become pregnant.

Pregnant women need to be provided education that it is never too late to stop drinking. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders are 100 percent preventable.

Story by Courtney Joyner