FASD needs more awareness amongst Canadians
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.