# Monday, 07 December 2009
                 

With the Christmas season upon Canadians, alcohol can factor into many of the seasonal parties and functions. However, for women who are pregnant alcohol consumption can cause serious defects in the unborn child. It is estimated that nine babies for every 1,000 that are born in Canada have Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder which can cause birth defects and/or developmental disabilities.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is an umbrella term that describes the range of disabilities and/or diagnoses that are a result of alcohol consumption during pregnancy; impact of FASD varies from child to child. The degree of disability and birth defects usually depends on the amount of alcohol that was consumed, how often it was consumed and at what stage of the pregnancy it was consumed, as well as the health status of the pregnant mother. It should be noted that no amount of alcohol is considered safe for pregnant women .

It is estimated that more than 3,000 babies in Canada are born each year with FASD, and approximately 300,000 Canadians are currently living with some form of FASD. Research suggests that the cases of FASD are higher in aboriginal communities as well as rural, remote Northern communities. However, FASD has been found in all communities in Canada regardless of location as well as financial status.

FASD causes mild to severe health problems for those who suffer from it. It can impact delays in development, cause intellectual problems and well as problems learning how to socialize with others. Some common examples of FASD are:

  • Learning disabilities (particularly in mathematical concepts);
  • Difficulty in understanding that actions have consequences;
  • Depression;
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder;
  • Physical disabilities such as kidney problems and internal organ problems;
  • Skeletal abnormalities, i.e. facial deformities.

FASD can also cause behavioral problems such as:

  • Difficulties in handling money and/or telling time;
  • Difficulties in reasoning and being able to competently think problems through;
  • Difficulties in learning from past experiences and not repeating the same mistakes over and over;
  • Difficulties in scheduling, i.e. remembering appointments;
  • Difficulty in maintaining socially appropriate behaviors;
  • Difficulties in everyday tasks, i.e. paying rent, grocery shopping, job performance.

People with FASD can also develop secondary disabilities; early diagnosis is essential for being able to access professional help and on-going supports. These secondary disabilities can include such issues as:

  • Mental health issues;
  • Poor performance in school or completion of education;
  • Problems with the law;
  • Chronic unemployment;
  • Drug and/or alcohol abuse;
  • Homelessness.

If FASD is suspected, it is vital that a doctor trained in this issue do a medical diagnosis in order to rule out other medical conditions that are usually treatable. A medical diagnosis of FASD involves a team of doctors who are trained to assess psychological, speech as well as everyday functioning of the person. While there is no cure for FASD, proper medical intervention can help to provide those with FASD to lead more productive and satisfying lives.

In order to prevent FASD it is recommended that all women follow these steps:

  • As 50% of pregnancies are unplanned, most women do not realize they are pregnant in the early stages. Therefore, if a woman even suspects she may be pregnant, or is planning to become pregnant, cease all alcohol consumption immediately.
  • For women who are not using birth control but are having sex, avoid consuming alcohol as there is no way of knowing when you may become pregnant.
  • For women who are concerned about their consumption of alcohol, seek the help and advice of your healthcare professional.

It is essential that pregnancy and alcohol consumption are not mixed, since there is no safe amount of consumption during any stage of pregnancy.

posted on Monday, 07 December 2009 14:40:24 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
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