At 9:09 on the 9th day of the 9th month, the world takes time to acknowledge the importance of alcohol free pregnancy.
Drinking alcohol at any time during pregnancy - even before the pregnancy is confirmed - increases the risk of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), miscarriage, stillbirth, and perinatal death.
According to Louise Gray, Executive Officer of the National Organisation for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (NOFASD) Australia , FASD is the most prevalent and preventable disability in the world. It does not discriminate based on ethnicity, creed, wealth or socioeconomic status.
What is FASD?
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder or FASD is a type of acquired brain injury that is caused when alcohol is consumed during pregnancy. A baby born with FASD can have life-long problems with learning, growth, behaviour, memory, language, communication and everyday living. They may also have birth defects and facial abnormalities.
Most children with FASD show no visible signs and can often go undiagnosed but could have the following behavioural characteristics:
- Physical and emotional developmental delay
- Impaired speech and language development
- Learning problems, e.g. poor memory
- Difficulty controlling behaviour
The level of harm caused by FASD is dependent on a range of factors, most predominantly the amount and frequency of alcohol consumed but also:
- Generational alcohol use by either parent
- Age of the mother
- Health of the mother (e.g. nutrition, mental health, tobacco and other drug use)
- Environmental factors (e.g. stress, exposure to violence, poverty)
The Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol, which were developed by the National Health and Medical Research Council, recommend that no alcohol when planning a pregnancy, while pregnant and breastfeeding is the safest option.
There is no safe time to drink alcohol during pregnancy and no safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy.
Getting help and the facts
If you're struggling to cut down your alcohol consumption, help is available – and it's free! Get Healthy is a telephone-based coaching service that provides NSW residents over 18 with a free personal health coach to guide and support them on their journey to drink less alcohol, get active and eat well.
The service has a Healthy in Pregnancy module which helps pregnant women be active and healthy during their pregnancy. You can speak to a Get Healthy in Pregnancy Service coach by calling 1300 806 258 or sign up online.
For quick guides, resources and videos on how to stay off booze during pregnancy and the role family and friends play in supporting a pregnant woman, take a look at the
Yarning about Alcohol + Pregnancy resources on Your Room.
For health information and content about pregnancy, having a young baby and how alcohol during pregnancy can affect a baby's development check out the Stay Strong and Healthy Facebook page.
For free and confidential advice give an Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) counsellor a call on 1800 250 015, they are available 24 hours, 7 days a week to provide confidential support and advice.