An article published in The Guardian on May 18 has caused some controversy and discussion. In the article various organizations and “experts” (in particular The British Pregnancy Advisory Service) feel the message of no alcohol during pregnancy scares women and is not based on reliable evidence.
Women are being unfairly alarmed by official guidelines that warn them to avoid alcohol completely during pregnancy, experts claim. Some mothers-to-be may even be having an abortion because they are worried they have damaged their unborn child by drinking too much, it is claimed.
“We need to think hard about how risk is communicated to women on issues relating to pregnancy. There can be real consequences to overstating evidence or implying certainty when there isn’t any,” said Clare Murphy, director of external affairs at BPAS, the contraception and abortion charity.
CanFASD, Canada’s leading FASD research network, has stated the article presents potentially harmful information about pregnancy and alcohol.
CanFASD agrees that although conversation around compassionate, non-judgmental ways to communicate this message to women and expectant mothers is indeed important—the current recommendations do not overstate risk, nor do they remove a woman’s right or ability to make a choice, rather, they provide clear, essential information in order that she may do so.
Providing women with accurate information and a supportive, safe environment to make the healthiest choice for herself and her developing baby are essential in reducing prevalence of FASD.
What can be said is that despite all the studies, there is no known safe amount of alcohol one can consume while pregnant. And that alcohol is a known teratogen.
A teratogen is an agent, which can cause a birth defect. Examples are prescribed medication, street drugs, alcohol, or a disease present in the mother which could increase the chance for the baby to be born with a birth defect. About 4 to 5 percent of birth defects are caused by exposure to a teratogen.
I have always said in my conversations with people about alcohol and pregnancy that how can anyone think alcohol does not affect the baby. Alcohol alters our state. It has to have some effect on a developing embryo. So why take the risk.
If you are trying to conceive or are pregnant, both moms and dads to be should just pass on the glass of alcohol. And if you discover you are pregnant after consuming alcohol, speak to your health care provider. Outcomes for all are better with earlier identification and intervention. No stigma. No shame.
2018 Update: Check out FASD: It’s time to Stop the Debate. for another Study published after this original post and the reactions. Stay tuned for more information about the effects of alcohol throughout a pregnancy. It’s important to also note there is movement to have FASD recognized as a whole body disorder – since alcohol affects so much more than just the brain – as evidenced in a landmark study published in January 2016. You can find out details here: FASD FRIDAY FACT: 428 Distinct Conditions Co-occur with FASD
Come back tomorrow for another tip in the 99 day countdown to FASDay. 94 to go!