Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is an umbrella term for a group of physical, mental and/or behavioral changes that can happen to a fetus when someone drinks during a pregnancy. FASD is a lifelong condition. It’s sometimes called a “hidden” or “invisible” condition because most people affected do not have noticeable physical features. While individuals may share common signs of FASD, every individual is unique with their own challenges and strengths. International FASD Awareness Day is observed every year on 9 September at 9:09am in recognition of the importance of trying to be alcohol free during a pregnancy.
There is no known safe amount of alcohol that can be used while pregnant. The more alcohol someone who is pregnant drinks, and the more often they drink, the greater the chance of harm to the fetus. If you are pregnant, the safest thing for the fetus is to stop drinking. For some people giving up drinking when they find out they are pregnant is simple. However, quitting or cutting down may not be as easy for everyone. Even if you can’t quit, drinking less can help reduce the risk for FASD.
Supporting Someone Who Is Pregnant
It can be hard to see someone we care about drinking while they’re pregnant (or having friends or family who are using substances), but ultimately they need to decide for themselves if they have a problem or need help. When people are judged for using substances they are less likely to get help.
Ways to support someone is pregnant
- Don’t drink or use drugs around them
- If they are drinking, try to find out why and what is going on for them – be caring, open, and a good listener and try not to judge
- Do fun things with them that don’t include alcohol like movie nights, board games or nature walks
- Make healthy snacks and meals for them– eating well in pregnancy is important and healthy foods may reduce the impact of alcohol on a fetus
- Encourage them to get pre-natal care (regular check-ups during pregnancy) – Pre-natal care helps reduce the risk of FASD and other problems in pregnancy
- Help them get to and from appointments
- Share resources like phone lines, Teen Clinics, the Mothering Project or Motherrisk – They may not be ready to stop drinking but they may be ready to explore what that could look like and ways to keep the fetus healthier if they do continue to drink
- Ask them how you can best support them
Supporting someone in our life who is struggling with substance use can be pretty tough and upsetting at times. It’s important that you make time for yourself and to get your own help. The Klinic Crisis Line is available 24/7 and is free to call from anywhere in Manitoba. Their number is 1.888.322.3019 or 204.786.8686.