What’s the Buzz?: Protecting babies from alcohol is everyone’s business

What’s the Buzz?: Protecting babies from alcohol is everyone’s business

  • Carol J. O’Hara and Sunny Burford For The Sentinel

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Alcohol is often a part of many holiday celebrations; but alcohol and pregnancy do not mix well together.

If you know someone who is pregnant or breast feeding, support them in abstaining from alcohol. Have non-alcoholic beverages available for guests. Women of child-bearing age should not drink alcohol if they are pregnant, trying to get pregnant or having unprotected sex.

Babies exposed to alcohol during pregnancy can develop a “hidden disability” because it is often never recognized. There is no cure, and it lasts a lifetime. The disability is called Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD).

FASD is an umbrella term for a group of conditions and can lead to a range of birth defects, which may be physical, intellectual or both. Alcohol can produce serious neurobehavioral effects in the child, even more than using crack or heroin.

FASD is 100 percent preventable. It is important for pregnant women to follow this rule: Nine Months No Alcohol!

Unfortunately, not everyone follows the Nine Months, No Alcohol Rule. In the United States alone, one in 500 babies is born each year with identified FASD. The true number may even be closer to one in five because most children are never diagnosed, or are misdiagnosed. They are often considered to fall on the Autism Spectrum, suffer with Attention Deficit Disorder, bipolar disorder or even just be labeled as lazy and unmotivated.

Alcohol consumed during pregnancy enters the baby’s blood system through the placenta. The baby does not have a fully developed liver, is a lot smaller than their mother and cannot process alcohol well.

 Symptoms vary considerably from one child to the next. Alcohol can cause brain damage, intellectual disabilities, abnormalities to the central nervous system, face, liver, kidney, heart, joints and limbs, as well as skeletal defects, asthma, vision problems, hearing problems, acting out behaviors and difficulties with socialization and adapting to society.

Some persons with FASD do not mature emotionally beyond the ages of 6 or 7. Many teenagers with this disability are so depressed with their inability to fit into society, that they often attempt and commit suicide. Some end up in the criminal justice system.

Do you think that this condition does not apply to you? FASD impacts all of us. Only 10 percent of persons with FASD are able to live independent lives as adults. Over the lifetime of each person with FASD, taxpayers will spend close to $3 million in supportive services.

When celebrating the holidays this year, remember the Nine Months No Alcohol Rule!

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