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​International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Awareness Day falls annually on 9 September and the Outer Hebrides Alcohol & Drug Partnership and NHS Western Isles are using this opportunity to highlight the need for us all to support women to avoid alcohol in pregnancy. 

It is estimated that around 5 in 100 babies born in the UK are affected by pre-natal alcohol exposure and the effects are life-long.  A recent study found that 42% of meconium of newborn babies (baby’s first poop) showed evidence of the mother having consumed alcohol during pregnancy.  Children with FASD can have a range of mental, behavioural and learning disabilities as well as physical disabilities and specific facial characteristics. When drinking through pregnancy, the alcohol in the blood stream passes freely through the placenta into the developing baby. The fetus is completely unprotected from alcohol circulating in its blood system so the alcohol can destroy brain cells and damage the nervous system and other organs of the baby at any point during the pregnancy.  

There is no known safe amount of alcohol to drink whilst pregnant so to reduce the risk, the Chief Medical Officer advises that the safest approach for women who are planning a pregnancy, who may be pregnant or for those breastfeeding is to avoid alcohol completely.  To ensure the unborn baby receives the best chance in life avoid drinking alcohol or using drugs, including smoking and stick to a healthy diet.  If you have any concerns or any other issues, have a chat with your midwife or doctor who can offer you support, advice and practical help.   

For more information on FASD and why it’s best to avoid alcohol during pregnancy or when trying for a baby visit Alcohol and pregnancy | Ready Steady Baby! (nhsinform.scot) 

Dr Maggie Watts, Director of Public Health NHS Western Isles said “Alcohol is the commonest preventable cause of disability and its impact is lifelong.   Everyone - partners, family, friends, healthcare staff – has a role to play in supporting women to avoid alcohol use in pregnancy. Together we can look to reduce the harm caused by parental alcohol exposure and help our community live happy, healthier lives.  Avoiding alcohol when planning for and during pregnancy is ideal, and services are there to help if you find this difficult.  You can speak to your midwife or GP, or look for services through the ADP website. Please don’t take chances - give your baby the best start in life by going without alcohol for nine months.” 

For parents and carers of children and young people who may have already been affected by prenatal alcohol exposure visit the FASD Hub Scotland which offers information and support at https://bit.ly/3Ql6PcE 

If you would like more information on how to reduce your alcohol intake in preparation for a pregnancy, visit the Scottish Government’s ‘Count14’ website which offers helpful information on reducing drinking, as well as a useful drinks calculator to help monitor the amount of units you drink.  Visit www.count14.scot 

If you would like more information please contact the Outer Hebrides Alcohol and Drug Partnership Support Team on 01851 762022 or visit our website: www.outerhebadp.com