FASD needs more aware­ness amongst Cana­di­ans

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - FALL AUCTION GUIDE -

How have you supported al­co­hol-free preg­nan­cies?

Have you changed your drinking to sup­port a preg­nant part­ner or friend? Did you know that Fe­tal Al­co­hol Spec­trum Dis­or­der (FASD) can hap­pen in any com­mu­nity or group where al­co­hol is used?

Did you know that up to 50% of preg­nan­cies are un­planned and of­ten al­co­hol is used un­til pregnancy is con­firmed?

Did you know there is no known safe amount of al­co­hol use in pregnancy? Did you know that up to 4% of Cana­di­ans have FASD?

Sept. 9 is FASD Aware­ness Day. FASD is a di­ag­nos­tic term used to de­scribe im­pacts on the brain and body of in­di­vid­u­als pre­na­tally ex­posed to al­co­hol.

FASD is a life­long dis­abil­ity. In­di­vid­u­als with FASD will ex­pe­ri­ence some de­gree of chal­lenges in their daily liv­ing, and need sup­port to reach their full po­ten­tial.

Each in­di­vid­ual with FASD is unique and has ar­eas of both strengths and chal­lenges (Canada FASD Re­search Net­work [CanFASD], 2019). Ac­cord­ing to Joelle Schae­fer, Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of the Saskatchew­an Pre­ven­tion In­sti­tute, pre­vent­ing FASD is com­plex and re­quires sen­si­tiv­ity to, and aware­ness of, the re­al­i­ties of women’s lives.

In Canada, al­co­hol use is nor­mal­ized and al­co­hol is part of many so­cial events, con­sumed with meals, or used to re­lax at home or with friends.

The rea­sons a woman may use al­co­hol be­fore she is preg­nant are still there the day the pregnancy test is pos­i­tive. Rea­sons for pre­na­tal al­co­hol use may in­clude: drinking un­til pregnancy con­fir­ma­tion (planned or un­planned); men­tal health chal­lenges such as de­pres­sion; not be­ing able to avoid al­co­hol (every­one in a so­cial cir­cle is drinking); liv­ing with abuse and/ or trauma; al­co­hol de­pen­dency; not know­ing, or believing, al­co­hol may af­fect a fe­tus; or not feel­ing com­fort­able talk­ing about one’s al­co­hol use. Let’s change the con­ver­sa­tion about FASD. It is time to in­clude part­ners and com­mu­ni­ties in healthy, al­co­hol-free preg­nan­cies.

How can you make a dif­fer­ence? This may in­clude: host­ing ac­tiv­i­ties that don’t in­volve al­co­hol; re­duc­ing or stop­ping your own drinking to sup­port a part­ner or friend; ask­ing if a friend wants to talk about al­co­hol use and pregnancy; or learn­ing more about FASD.

It can be dif­fi­cult to make life­style changes when fam­i­lies and friends are not sup­port­ive or have not changed their life­style.

It can be un­com­fort­able to be the only non-drinking per­son at a party. Friends may not in­clude a preg­nant woman in plans be­cause she isn’t drinking.

Part­ners play a sig­nif­i­cant role in sup­port­ing al­co­hol-free preg­nan­cies. Preg­nant women are more likely to use al­co­hol if they live with a part­ner who is a heavy drinker or who does not sup­port her in stop­ping or re­duc­ing drinking.

Al­though al­co­hol use is com­mon, al­co­hol use in pregnancy is stig­ma­tized. Be­cause of this, a woman may not be able to talk about her al­co­hol use be­cause she fears judge­ment or might be afraid of los­ing her chil­dren.

Many times women feel iso­lated or not supported. Shame and blame do not help any­one. In fact, th­ese are rea­sons women do not ask for as­sis­tance or go for pre­na­tal care.

It is much eas­ier to talk about pre­na­tal al­co­hol use when peo­ple are sup­port­ive and will­ing to lis­ten and help, with­out judge­ment.

The Saskatchew­an Pre­ven­tion In­sti­tute is a non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion, founded in 1980. Our fo­cus is to re­duce the oc­cur­rence of dis­abling con­di­tions in chil­dren. We raise aware­ness by pro­vid­ing train­ing, in­for­ma­tion, and re­sources based on cur­rent best ev­i­dence.

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