Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Sep 3, 2013

By Barret Procyshyn, Pharmacist at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is the leading known cause of preventable developmental disability among Canadians. It is estimated that FASD affects approximately one percent of the Canadian population. Development issues in the fetus occur when alcohol is consumed by the mother; it gets absorbed into the bloodstream and then is passed to the baby. Through very extensive studies and clinical research it became extremely evident a wide range of effects such as physical, behavioral and cognitive issues could develop from prenatal alcohol exposure. This is why the term Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, or FASD, was developed.

The term FASD includes fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) as well as other conditions resulting from prenatal alcohol exposure. These include including Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (pFAS), Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND), Alcohol-Related Birth Defects (ARBD), and Fetal Alcohol Effect (FAE).

The effects of a mother consuming alcohol during pregnancy can vary from mild to severe and may include a range of physical, brain and central nervous system disabilities, as well as cognitive, behavioral and emotional issues. We know alcohol has damaging effects on the brain, even in adults. In a developing fetus the effects are even more severe.

Often these effects are not dependent on the amount of alcohol consumed, which is why there is no safe amount, and no safe time, to drink alcohol during pregnancy. Birth defects may be present at birth, with bonding problems and feeding issues arising shortly thereafter. A child can develop a small head, flat face, and narrow eye openings, which becomes more visible at a toddlers age. Growth problems may continue through childhood. Learning and behavior problems can be life-long. These effects have significant impacts on individuals, their families, and society.

It is interesting to compare Manitobans to the rest of Canada. Data from 2006 and 2007 shows approximately 5% of women consumed alcohol during pregnancy. The national average is approximately 10%. While Manitoba is lower than the average it would be great to see both of these numbers at zero. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons this is unlikely to occur.

An expecting mother should try to talk openly with their doctor if they have had alcohol while being pregnant. A doctor can look for FASD-related problems while you're pregnant, and can watch your babys health both before and after birth. Certain tests may also need to be performed during and after birth.

In the unfortunate scenario where a baby has been exposed to alcohol during fetal development, there is often the need for support. There are support systems available the child deserved all the help they can get. You have to remember it is not their fault, and they deserve the chance to reach their full potential in life.

International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness Day is on Monday,September 9, 2013. The South Parkland FASD Coalition will be holding an information session, awareness walk and BBQ in Dauphin on September 9. Information on FASD will presented by Lisa Moxam, from the Manitoba Foster Family Network, from 9:30-11:30 am at the Dauphin Friendship Centre. There also be information on other neurodevelopmental disorders such as Alzheimers, trauma related disorders and Autism. The awareness walk will follow at 11:30 and a BBQ starting at 12:00 pm at the downtown CN Park. For more information or to register speak to Twyla Gilroy and 204-638-3054.

Remember, Health Canada strongly advises that there is no safe amount, and no safe time, to drink alcohol during pregnancy. If you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant or about to breastfeed, the safest choice is to drink no alcohol at all.

The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist or other health care professional.


We now have this and most other articles published in the Parkland Shopper on our Website. Please visit us at www.dcp.ca

As always if you have any questions or concerns about these or other products, ask your pharmacist.


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