September 9 is International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Awareness Day. The 9th day of the 9th month was chosen to remind people that they shouldn’t drink for the 9 months of pregnancy. Seeing as my doctoral research was on FASD, it’s an issue that is near and dear to my heart.
A few facts about FASD:
- FASD represents a range of disabilities (that’s why it’s called a “spectrum” disorder) – from full-brown Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) to differing levels of disabilities in different areas.
- FASD is caused by drinking alcohol during pregnancy. There is no known safe amount of alcohol to drink during pregnancy, nor is there a “safe” time to drink during pregnancy, which is why it is recommended that pregnant women don’t consume alcohol.
- FASD is, essentially, brain damage due to alcohol.
- While there is no cure for FASD, given the right supports, people with FASD can do very well. Thus, it is very important for those who have it to get a diagnosis of FASD, so the right supports can be provided.
- FASD is a challenging disorder to diagnose, and a specially trained professional is required to give a diagnosis of FASD.
- It is estimated that 1% of people in Canada have FASD.
When I was doing my research on FASD, a comment that I often heard from people was, “Why would you study that? Everyone knows that it’s bad to drink while pregnant. Just tell people not to drink.” Unfortunately, not everyone can easily stop drinking. Alcohol is addictive and addiction is a serious disease. Women who are unable to stop drinking need to be supported by their family, friends, and community, so that they and their babies can be as healthy as possible. The Public Health Agency of Canada has some information on where to go for help on their website.
Here’s a video1 describing the TWEAK – a screening tool we use to help identify people who may have a problem with alcohol:
- it was made for last year’s FASD Day [↩]