Highlighting the importance of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder prevention

9 Sep 2020

Every year, on the ninth day of the ninth month, we observe International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Awareness Day.

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On this day we are reminded that during the nine months of pregnancy, expectant mothers should be supported to abstain from alcohol. By doing so we can prevent FASD, a lifelong disorder that can affect unborn and newborn babies exposed to alcohol before birth.

In Australia estimates suggest that up to 2% of all babies may be born with some form of FASD. FASD symptoms may be physical, mental, behavioural and sensory, and individuals with FASD can have a shortened lifespan with an average life expectancy of only 34 years of age. Awareness about FASD is critical, noting that in 2019 55% of women consumed alcohol before they knew they were pregnant. Only a proportion of these women were able to cease their drinking, with 14.5% continuing to consume alcohol after learning of their pregnancy.

Turning Point strongly supports advocacy, education and treatment to prevent FASD. We have advocated for more effective health warning labels on alcoholic beverages to be endorsed by government, to ensure clear messaging about the risks of alcohol use during pregnancy. We understand that women need to have access to non-judgmental and holistic health services, to be supported to stop drinking before and during pregnancy. Our counseling programs and treatment services are available and ready to help all Victorians who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, and struggling with alcohol or any other substance use issues.

We also support partners and families of pregnant women willing to share in a ‘pregnant pause’ from drinking during pregnancy, as there is growing evidence that partner attitudes and drinking behaviour can influence alcohol consumption in pregnant partners. Together, we can all highlight the importance of FASD prevention, and raise awareness.