ALCOHOL AND THE PREGNANT WOMAN
INTERNATIONAL FOETAL ALCOHOL AWARENESS DAY 09 SEPTEMBER
On the 9th September, to symbolise the nine months of pregnancy communities around the world hold events to raise the awareness of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD).
Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders which are estimated to affect at least one percent of our population can be caused if a woman drinks alcohol during pregnancy. FASD is an umbrella term that covers foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), alcohol-related neurodevelopment disorders (ARND), alcohol-related birth defects (ARBD), foetal alcohol effects (FAE) and partial foetal alcohol syndrome (pFAS). The exact prevalence of FASD in the UK is not known. International prevalence studies in countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia, Finland, Japan and Italy state that at least 1 in 100 children are affected. This would equate to at least 6,000–7,000 babies born with FASD each year in the UK.
When a pregnant woman drinks, the alcohol in her blood passes freely through the placenta into the developing baby’s blood. Because the foetus does not have a fully developed liver, it cannot filter out the toxins from the alcohol as an adult can. Instead, the alcohol circulates in the baby’s blood system and can destroy brain cells and damage the nervous system.
Effects can be mild or severe, ranging from reduced intellectual ability and attention deficit disorder to heart problems and even death. Many children experience serious behavioural and social difficulties that last a life time.
Many children born with FASD are not diagnosed, or do not receive a correct diagnosis, which makes calculating the prevalence of the condition extremely difficult. NOFAS-UK is a charity dedicated to supporting people affected by foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), and their families and communities. It promotes education for professionals and public awareness about the risks of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. There is no consistent clear message on safe levels of alcohol during pregnancy; therefore they promote ‘no alcohol means no risk of FASD’.
Addiction Helper, an independent service based in the UK for people with addictions take around 3000 calls per month on their help line, mainly from the loved ones of addicts looking for advice on treatment programmes. Daniel Gerrard the Founder of Addiction Helper is concerned about the number of women struggling with alcohol intake prior to conception and during pregnancy, he says, ‘Because there is no proven safe level for alcohol consumption during pregnancy, the only risk-free approach is to avoid alcohol completely – during pregnancy, when trying to conceive and when breastfeeding.’
Notes to Editors
• Daniel Gerrard has a certificate in counselling and pyschotherapy from Regents College and has also spent time as a volunteer in various rehab centres around the UK and at Drugsline.
• Addiction Helper helps over fifty addicts a month into bespoke treatment programmes.
• A team of trained addiction counsellors handle caller and email enquiries 24/7 offering confidential free advice to anyone affected by addiction including family members, loved ones, friends and colleagues.
• Addiction Helper is a division of The Recovery Healthcare Group
• Calls to Addiction Helper are free 0800 140 4823
• For more information on foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) please visit www.nofas-uk.org.
• Call the NOFAS-UK helpline on 020 8458 5951
To interview Daniel Gerrard, Founder of Addiction Helper and/or Susan Fleisher, Founder of NOFAS-UK and adoptive mother of a 24 year old daughter with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome please contact Teresa Quinlan on 0203 551 3970 email@example.com
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