Monthly Archives: June 2016

New – 2015 FASD Prevention Bibliography: A look at “Prevalence”

Each year, researchers with the Prevention Network Action Team (pNAT) of CanFASD Research Network conduct an international literature review of academic articles published on FASD prevention. Rose Schmidt and Nancy Poole of BC Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health looked at articles published between January and December 2015 and compiled a comprehensive bibliography of […]

via New – 2015 FASD Prevention Bibliography: A look at “Prevalence” — Girls, Women, Alcohol, and Pregnancy

San Francisco photographer captures homeless pregnant women in beautiful portraits


Over the past eight and a half years, San Francisco photographer Keri Vaca has volunteered her time once a month to capture beautiful portraits of the city’s most vulnerable women.

At the Homeless Prenatal Program, she photographs anywhere from two to 20 moms-to-be who are battling problems such as homelessness, job security, substance abuse, domestic violence and extreme poverty.

1024x1024 (1)Vaca, who is a mom herself with two children, returns the next month to pass out framed prints wrapped nicely in bags with tissue. She says the women are always overwhelmed by the gift and often cry.

“A lot of these women have no self esteem and have been really broken,” Vaca says. “My thought is that by giving them these photos when they might not feel their best, they can look back and see how beautiful they were.”

Over the years, Vaca has been touched and inspired by strong women whose pregnancies have driven them to successfully overcome everything from crack addiction to abusive boyfriends, and found that she can connect with them through the experience of pregnancy and motherhood.

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“While our stories might be different, we still have so much in common,” Vaca says. “Some of the moms will open up and share. I’m super open and I love connecting with them and telling them I felt just like that too during my pregnancy. It’s super inspiring.”

A collection of Vaca’s photographs are currently on display at the Homeless Prenatal ProgramThe program, which was founded in 1989 by a nurse named Martha Ryan, has impressive results with over 90 percent of the women birthing healthy, drug-free babies.

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Pregnancy test dispensers attempt to raise fetal alcohol syndrome awareness


It’s not unusual to see dispensers for tampons or sanitary napkins in women’s washrooms, but at a college and a bar in Whitehorse, women can also buy pregnancy tests.

In an attempt to reduce the number of women who drink while pregnant, the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society Yukon installed three pregnancy test dispensers — two at Yukon College and one at the pub Dirty Northern Public House — in Whitehorse last year.

“What we wanted to do is change the culture around pregnancy and drinking,” said Wenda Bradley, the society’s executive director.  

It’s become normal to see young women binge drinking on a night out, but it can have severe consequences for an unborn child if the mother isn’t aware she is pregnant yet, Bradley said.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder includes a range of physical and intellectual disabilities that cannot be cured, but are preventable.

While there is no concrete national statistic on the rate of the disorder, a 2015 report by the Canadian Medical Association Journal said an estimated one in 100 people live with the condition.

Bradley said binge drinking can have the most dangerous effects on a fetus.

In the North, the cost of a pregnancy test at a drugstore can range from $18 to $20. The dispensers are far more affordable at only $2 for a test, Bradley said.

“If they’re being told they shouldn’t be drinking during pregnancy, then they also need to be able to know if they are or are not pregnant.”

Over 190 tests have been sold between the three dispensers since they were installed in April 2015.

A similar dispenser installed at the Downtown Hotel in Dawson City last year has also had about 100 purchases, a significant number considering the town’s population of 2,000 people, said Angela Van Nostrand, programming co-ordinator for Healthy Families Healthy Babies.

“Early detection of a pregnancy will certainly allow women to make informed choices on how they are going to take care of themselves.”

The effectiveness of the dispensers is not simply tied to the number of pregnancy tests purchased.

The University of Alaska Anchorage, which is collecting surveys from Whitehorse and other cities, is studying the influence posters have when attached to these pregnancy test dispensers.

In the United States, all establishments serving alcohol are required to have posters or flyers informing the public of the risks of drinking while pregnant, yet very few people are knowledgeable about those risks, said David Driscoll, who is leading the two-year study.

“Very few people have seen these flyers. They’ve become so ubiquitous that people don’t notice them,” he said.

The posters on pregnancy test dispensers are unexpected and unfamiliar sights to most women. Driscoll said they would more likely grab attention than a traditional poster behind a bar.

Although prevalence rates of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder in the U.S. have been found to be low at about one to three cases per 1,000 births, Driscoll said it’s worth finding more effective ways to bring those numbers down.

“If you have a (fetal alcohol syndrome) child, that is extraordinarily challenging and not to mention expensive health outcome,” he said. “The cost associated with placing a pregnancy test dispenser at a bar pale in comparison.”

Linda Givetash, The Canadian Press

©2016 The Canadian Press

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Help Promote the Low Risk Drinking Guidelines This Canada Day


The Chief Public Health Office and the Liquor Control Commission are encouraging Canadians to follow the Canadian Centre of Substance Abuse’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines.

The guidelines were developed to help Canadians moderate their alcohol consumption and reduce immediate and long-term alcohol-related harm. The guidelines recommend that adults of legal drinking age do not consume more than two drinks a day or 10 per week for women, and three drinks a day or 15 per week for men.

“Consuming alcohol is a personal choice, and if you are choosing to drink these guidelines help to promote a culture of moderation,” said Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison.

At least half of all alcohol consumed in Canada is consumed in excess of Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines. If Canadian drinkers were drinking alcohol within the guidelines, it is estimated that alcohol-related deaths would be reduced by approximately 4,600 each year.

The campaign includes infographics shared on Facebook and Twitter highlighting safe drinking tips with the hashtag #safedrinkingtips, including:

• What is a drink? 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine and 1.5 ounces of spirits are all equal amounts of alcohol.

• If you choose to drink alcohol, eat before and while you drink.

• Zero is the limit when it comes to drinking alcohol during pregnancy, when taking medications, or participating in sports or dangerous physical activity.

• For every drink of alcohol, have one non-alcoholic drink.

• If you choose to drink on special occasions, reduce your risk of injury and harm by drinking no more than 3 drinks for women and 4 drinks for men.

• Discuss with your son or daughter the benefits of delayed drinking.

For more information on Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines visit

Safety concerns as pregnant women try marijuana for morning sickness

morning_sicknessSafety concerns as pregnant women try marijuana for morning sickness

 For some pregnant women, morning sickness isn’t just an annoyance; it’s severe and unrelenting and can’t be relieved even with medications.
Concerned they could become under nourished during this critical time of their baby’s development, some pregnant women are turning to an alternative treatment: marijuana.

Used by many cancer patients and those with nausea, marijuana has long been known to increase appetite and reduce vomiting. But is it safe in pregnancy?

Katie, who is 30 weeks pregnant with twins, often stirred a tiny spoonful of marijuana oil into her morning coffee during her first trimester, and says it has helped to stop her relentlesimage(4)s morning sickness.

“I can eat. I don’t throw up and I can hold down food. So in those very important stages when the babies need to get nutrients, the babies get nutrients,” she says.

Katie asked us not to show her face or use her real name. That’s because most doctors are adamant that marijuana in any form shouldn’t be used during pregnancy. They say it has been linked to premature birth and behavioural issues in children. But Katie says she doesn’t smoke the drug, and she drinks only small amounts.

“I am not hurting my babies. I am helping my babies,” she told CTV News, adding that it’s a growing trend. She said she knows lots of women who used marijuana during their pregnancies, and all their children are fine.

But some researchers aren’t so sure, like Andra Smith, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa’s School of Psychology, who did her MRI research at The Royal’s Brain Imaging Centre.

She recently completed a study that shows that brain function is changed in young adults whose mothers smoked marijuana during pregnancy. It didn’t affect their IQ, but their brains had to work a bit harder to function, with unknown long-term effects.

“I think this is really important information to get out there, that even if you can have this short-term relief of morning sickness, you might be impacting the future success of your offspring,” Smith told CTV News.

Virginia Vidal also used marijuana during her pregnancy. She said she had morning sickness so severe, she contemplated ending her pregnancy with triplets. She tried the standard medications for morning sickness but said they didn’t work for her. So she started putting marijuana oil in her tea.

“I just remembered, I had tried it and I felt really good and I was able to eat and I was able to keep the food down,” Vidal said, “and that was the only thing that was beneficial to me.”

Nine years later, she said her children Marissa, Maya and Miguel don’t show any ill effects.

“I say the proof is in their health, in their intelligence. They definitely do not have any behavioural issues,” she said.

With many women looking for options to treat nausea in pregnancy, and with marijuana about to become even more widely available in Canada, it’s possible that the drug’s use during pregnancy will grow.

But until more is known about the drug and its effects on growing babies, doctors urge pregnant women to try more conventional morning sickness treatments first, such as vitamin B6 and ginger, and approved prescription medications.

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Sympathy, shame, and few solutions: News media portrayals of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders


Sympathy, shame, and few solutions: News media portrayals of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders


There is a lack of public understanding about fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), and
many countries lack policies to deal with FASD concerns. Given the role of news media in disseminating a range of health information, the aim of the current study was to explore the media coverage on alcohol use during pregnancy and FASD, and to identify ways to improve associated health messages.


The current study uses a framing analysis of news media reports about FASD over a 1-year period. Framing analysis seeks to better understand how media messages serve to shape the thoughts, feelings, and decisions of readers.


Two frames dominated the media coverage of FASD: a frame of sympathy, and a frame of
shame. Some news media encouraged feelings of sympathy for children with FASD, while others encouraged sympathy towards mothers of these children. At the same time, mothers were also portrayed as deserving of shame.

Key conclusions: the interrelated frames of sympathy and shame may confuse

The interrelated frames of sympathy and shame may confuse readers, as they inconsistently hold different parties responsible for the impact of FASD. Media portrayals that encourage women to refrain from alcohol consumption during pregnancy might be more useful than stigmatising and isolating those who do.

Implications for practice:

Practitioners should be aware that conflicting messages about alcohol consumption
during pregnancy might lead to shame and confusion, and should encourage openness with mothers to challenge stigma. Guidelines for media reporting should discourage stigmatising frames, and media articles should also consider the role that government, non-government organisations, and the alcohol industry could play for improving FASD shame.

Click to read full research report: 1-s2.0-S0266613816300894-main


Higher autism prevalence in children prenatally exposed to alcohol: pilot study

Edmonton and area Fetal Alcohol Network Society

Higher autism prevalence in children prenatally exposed to alcohol: pilot study

New study on autism

A new pilot study found that the prevalence of autism among children prenatally exposed to alcohol was significantly higher than the prevalence in the overall Canadian population.

The study, which will be presented at the Canadian Paediatric Society’s annual conference in P.E.I. this week, examined the case reports of 300 Ontario children aged three to 16 who were exposed to alcohol in the womb.

Researchers reviewed the case reports to determine the prevalence of autism, number of children diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), and other demographic data.

FASDs are a group of conditions that can present in children whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy, and are among the leading causes of cognitive and developmental disability among Canadian children. FASD symptoms can range from mild to severe, and may include physical, mental, behavioural, and learning disabilities.


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