Drinking whilst pregnant – what she said…

This is my wife’s reaction to the Loose Women question (“Let us know if you think the odd drink during pregnancy is OK?”) that inspired my post:

No it is not OK. It is not OK to take a risk on a Central Nervous System (which incidentally is forming all through gestation), Endocrine, Skeletal, Muscular, Organs developing normally at a cellular level. Alcohol is a teratogen.

This is a fact.

One glass of wine affects the foetus/baby (physical heart rate changed) for half an hour as shown on a sonagram. So we can see the physical affects alcohol has on a very developed baby/foetus how can anyone say that their children have not been affected on a cellular level by alcohol?

The rising diagnosis of ADHD and Autism (if anyone is interested there is information on this) the cross referencing of symptoms with these and FAS, FASD and ARND is immense (it is not called the ‘Mirror Syndrome’ for nothing). FASD is a spectrum (like Autism) each person is affected differently dependent on many variables.

The UK is woefully behind in advising ladies in this country in comparison to the USA, Canada and Australia. FASD is the leading cause of learning difficulties in this country (even though it is considered under diagnosed by Medical and Social work professionals).

I do not judge pregnant ladies who drink but I am angry and frustrated that our Government, Medical community and Media are not providing an informative and expedient message. It is only through the likes of various voluntary organisations and charities such as NOFAS, FASD UK and The FASD Trust that the profile of FASD and ARND has been raised. Our Prison systems, Schools, Hospitals, Mental health facilities, Social Care are under immense pressure (at a cost to us all both Financially and Socially) so Why would anyone take the risk of their child and their family be a part of those statistics?

Parents, Carers and those affected with FASD or ARND suffer through lack of understanding by Medics, Educators and Society of the extremely complex effects of their diagnosis, the secondary effects are Mental health issues, Substance misuse, trouble with the law.

So yes, I would intervene not in anger, hatred or judgement but out of humanity. No mother wishes harm on her child, I would not wish harm on anyone and I would do everything to ensure that future generations are not affected. The leading cause of learning difficulties in this country is preventable.

It is not ‘perfect parenting’ (believe me no parent carers of children affected consider themselves ‘perfect’), it is not ‘judgemental’ (you tend to lose the capacity to judge others when you’re busy fighting for your own family’s needs) for many that have commented whether they have been directly affected by alcohol or a family member or friend has is coming from frustration, desperation and a real need for others to benefit from their experience.

Websites for the mentioned places for further information

This is all about risk, risk to your child, risk to your family and risk to our society as a whole.

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Loose (Women’s) lips sink (owner)ship

Loose Women today (here – about 30 minutes in) featured an ever-so-short slot about whether you would intervene if you saw someone drinking alcohol  whilst pregnant.

It showed that, once again, the media are missing the point in a massive way.

Comments like “we didn’t have information back in the 1960s” and “it’s alright to have one or two” do not help to further the discussion or raise awareness of the impact of drinking whilst pregnant on the unborn child. Indeed, people seem rather stuck in time when it comes to guidance on drinking whilst pregnant, as a number of the comments on the Facebook page demonstrate to great effect.

Yes, official guidance has changed over the years. Yes, anecdotally women have in the past been advised to drink whilst pregnant (commonly Guinness…), or that one or two won’t harm. Yes, whole swathes of kids seem to be unaffected by what their mothers did whilst they were in the womb (or at least that’s what their mothers are shouting out). Even if that is the case – that these kids suffered no ill effect of their mothers drinking whilst pregnant – that doesn’t mean that the same applies for every woman.

Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is very real, and very preventable.  Next time, instead of reading about those who apparently weren’t affected, read the stories of parents who have to help their children with FASD every single day. As with any spectrum, children are affected in different ways, but the impact on their lives and the lives of those around them can be severe – even in the less affected children.

How could I know that? I am one of those parents who has to second guess whether my child is acting a certain way because of their age, situation or FASD and who has to parent in a completely different way to that I’d anticipated because at the end of the day my child has organic brain damage.

We will not know the true impact on our son until he grows older and so are filled wth questions that would not necessarily have been the case had he not had a diagnosis of FASD, such as:

  • Will his learning plateau?
  • Will he be able to look after himself as an adult?
  • Will we need to find special educational provision?

We have such questions because we’ve seen the impact FASD can have on families and children with FASD.

This is not something that should simply be brushed aside as an instruction from the “nanny state” or because “it didn’t used to be that way”.

Imagine having the same discussion about child seats – nobody thinks twice about installing one of them in their car for the safety of their child, so why should the safety of their brain be compromised whilst they are in the womb?

Anyone drinks whilst they know they are pregnant should take ownership by making a consious decision to do so having spent a day with a family affected by FASD, not by just listening to anecdotal evidence. I bet by doing so, many mums to be would find that it’s simply not worth the risk.