Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) are a range of birth defects that are caused by a woman’s consumption of alcohol while she is pregnant. Communities around the world are coordinating events for International FASD Awareness Day on Sept. 9 to raise awareness of this preventable condition. The public is invited to attend an event on the morning of Sept. 9, at 9:09 a.m. at the Loussac Library.
Alcohol-exposed pregnancies are a concern in any community where alcohol is consumed and women give birth. All women should be aware of the risks.
“It’s important to realize that all women are at risk of having an alcohol-exposed pregnancy if they consume alcohol, are sexually active, and not using contraception,” says Dr. Christiane Brems, director of the Arctic FASD Regional Training Center, based at UAA’s Center for Behavioral Health Research and Services. “Research shows us that there is no safe time, no safe amount, and no safe type of alcohol to drink while pregnant. Beer and wine are just as harmful as hard liquor, and damage can be done to the baby’s developing brain at any point during pregnancy.”
Also important remember, says Dr. Brems, is that no woman sets out to harm their child by exposing it to alcohol during pregnancy. “Since more than 50 percent of pregnancies are unplanned, women may be drinking alcohol and not know they are pregnant. But if a woman stops drinking as soon as she finds out she’s pregnant, she can improve her chances of having a healthy baby.”
Men also have an important role in preventing alcohol-exposed pregnancies. They can support their partner by not drinking if she is pregnant or planning to become pregnant.
“It takes community-wide support and resources to prevent FASDs,” says Dr. Brems. “If we work together, we can prevent this condition from occurring.”
The Arctic FASD Regional Training Center, based at UAA’s Center for Behavioral Health Research and Services, is funded through a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant. It provides education and training to health and allied health care providers and students around FASD prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.
The Arctic FASD Regional Training Center is a member of the Anchorage Council on FASDs, a collaborative group of Anchorage-based agencies that works together on FASD prevention and awareness.
Arctic FASD Regional Training Center staff are available for interviews. More information about FASDs and links to resources can be found at www.uaa.alaska.edu/arcticfasdrtc.