Editorial – Alcohol use during pregnancy and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder in Canada: who, what, where?

Understanding fetal alcohol spectrum disorder

The estimated prevalence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) in Canada is greater than that of autism, cerebral palsy and Down syndrome combined, and the incremental cost per case of FASD over a person’s lifespan is estimated at $1.1 million.1

FASD is a lifelong disability that impacts the brain and body of individuals prenatally exposed to alcohol. Individuals frequently have challenges in their daily living and need support with motor skills, physical health, learning, memory, emotional regulation and social skills.2,3 Emerging evidence suggests that FASD is also associated with chronic disease and mental health disorders and adverse societal experiences.4,5 When undiagnosed and unsupported, individuals with FASD are more likely to experience substance use challenges, mental health conditions, involvement with the criminal justice and child welfare systems, emotional and physical abuse, trauma and disrupted housing.6

FASD occurs within a web of increased risk and vulnerabilities. All populations that use alcohol are at risk for FASD, yet we still do not understand the prevalence of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, or FASD, in Canada.

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