Today is International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Awareness Day. This is a day where people around the world take the opportunity to stop and talk about alcohol use in pregnancy.
We know that what happens to us early in life greatly affects our health and wellbeing throughout our lives. Drinking alcohol at any time during pregnancy can have lasting, profound and permanent effects on a child’s brain, leading to lifelong mental and behavioural difficulties, and learning disabilities. While the majority of people with FASD do not look different, for some people, it can result in a host of medical conditions including visual impairments, hearing loss, cleft palate, malformation of the spine as well as other physical conditions.
In Canada, it is estimated that between two and five percent of people may be living with FASD, making it the leading known cause of a preventable developmental disability.
Everyone, including partners, friends, family, communities and governments, need to work together to support alcohol-free pregnancies.
My 2015 Annual Report on the State of Public Health in Canada explores the topic of alcohol consumption in Canada. The Report, which is intended to act as a starting point for discussion, brings together the latest research and information on the health risks of drinking, including FASD. Drinking may be widely accepted as part of our culture, but it’s important for all of us to know that alcohol, especially during pregnancy, can have life-long effects.
Remember, it’s safest not to drink when trying to become pregnant or during pregnancy.
Dr. Gregory Taylor
Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer