ITV documentary looks into impact of drinking while pregnant on babies and their families

An ITV documentary will take a look at the impact of drinking alcohol in pregnancy as one in 100 babies are born in Britain each year brain-damaged with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

These babies will go through life with a range of developmental, social and learning difficulties. A few will have tell-tale facial features which will make it easier to get a diagnosis and access support, but the majority will battle with an invisible disability.

What is FASD?

Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is a series of preventable birth defects caused entirely by a woman drinking alcohol at any time during her pregnancy, often even before she knows that she is pregnant.

The term ‘spectrum’ is used because each individual with FASD may have some or all of a spectrum of mental and physical challenges. In addition each individual with FASD may have these challenges to a degree or ‘spectrum’ from mild to very severe.

These defects of both the brain and the body exist only because of prenatal exposure to alcohol.

What are the guidelines?

The Government’s current guidelines advise that those who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant should avoid alcohol altogether – but then adds: “If women do choose to drink, to minimise the risk to the baby, we recommend they should not drink more than one to two units once or twice a week and they should not get drunk.”

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists had taken a similar view, although they referred to one or two units a week as a safe amount.

Spokesman Dr Pat O’Brien said: “If nobody drank any alcohol in pregnancy there would be no Foetal Alcohol Syndrome and no Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. But on the other hand if you look at all of the evidence there appears to be a safe level of alcohol intake in pregnancy.”

However earlier this month they updated their advice, recommending that pregnant women do not drink alcohol during the first three months of pregnancy. The advice does say that drinking small amounts of alcohol after this time does not appear to be harmful for the unborn baby, but that pregnant women should not drink more than one or two units, and then not more than once or twice a week.

Professor Sir Al Aynsley-Green, former Children’s Commissioner for England, said: “Exposure to alcohol before birth is the single most important preventable cause of incurable brain damage. And it’s an issue which affects all of us in society.”

Source: 3rd March 2015

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