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Press Release: 2015 International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness Day

As part of Galway Alcohol Strategy’s public awareness of the health and social impacts of alcohol-related harm specific attention is being given to highlight the International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) day.

FASD is an umbrella term describing the range of effects that can occur in a person prenatally exposed to alcohol. These lifelong effects may include physical, psychological, psychiatric, behavioural and learning disabilities.
All alcohol passes through the placenta to the fetus when a pregnant woman drinks. Alcohol can damage the baby throughout the entire pregnancy. Damage to the fetus from alcohol takes a number of forms and can show up as behavioural, social, learning and attention difficulties in childhood, adolescence and throughout childhood.

While many women stop drinking as soon as they discover they are pregnant, alcohol can affect an unborn baby even before a woman knows she is pregnant.  Those who drink heavily during their pregnancy can also increase the chances of complications during pregnancy and childbirth along with an increased risk of miscarriage and stillbirth.

When asked about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Michele Savage, Co-ordinator of FASD Ireland said  Ireland still has much to do to address the recognition, diagnosis and treatment of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder conditions in infants, children, young people and adults, and to establish prevention plans nationwide.
Whereas it is helpful that these conditions have, since late 2014, been classified on psychiatry's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, as Neurobehavioral Disorder from Prenatal Alcohol Exposure, either with or without dysmorphic features, Ireland is slow to recognise that 90% of those with FASD conditions won't necessarily look 'different' but will go on to have mental health issues as they cannot easily cope with their behavioural, learning, socialisation, sensory processing and developmental challenges as they grow, and which they will not grow out of. These issues often present as attention deficit and/or autistic type behaviours, masking the fact that they stem from organic brain damage caused by prenatal alcohol exposure, even at low-dose levels.

FASDs are the leading cause of non-genetic disabilities, but are 100% avoidable, so the message that no type or amount of alcohol has been proven safe for any stage of pregnancy needs to be emphasised in this country where high rates of drinking in pregnancy are reported. So, it would be best for baby if anyone trying to become pregnant or who thinks they may already be so, avoided alcohol completely.