September 9th is International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Awareness Day

The National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Urges Women
to Abstain from Alcohol During Pregnancy Due to the Risk of Birth Defects

Washington, D.C. — Prenatal alcohol exposure is the leading preventable cause of intellectual disabilities and birth defects in America.  The ninth day of the ninth month—September 9th—is International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Awareness Day and serves as an important reminder that alcohol-related birth defects can be completely prevented when women abstain from alcohol while pregnant.

FASD is an umbrella term describing the range of effects that can occur in an individual whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. These effects may include physical, mental, behavioral, and/or learning disabilities with possible lifelong implications.

Because no amount of alcohol can be considered safe during pregnancy and FASD is completely preventable, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Surgeon General advise that, “A pregnant woman, or a woman who is considering becoming pregnant, should abstain from alcohol,” adding, “A pregnant woman who has already consumed alcohol during pregnancy should stop in order to minimize the risk.”

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health, supports research to understand how alcohol exposure during pregnancy interferes with fetal development and how FASD can be identified and prevented. Scientists continue to make tremendous strides, providing important new insights into the nature of FASD and potential intervention and treatment strategies.

“Research tells us that while heavy and binge drinking during pregnancy pose the greatest risk, moderate and light drinking is linked to stillbirth, problems with attention and judgment, and poor social skills.  A significant challenge is overcoming the mixed messages and misconceptions about the risk of light drinking. No amount is completely safe, why take the risk?” says Tom Donaldson, president of the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS).

NOFAS serves as a resource for individuals and families living with FASD and works to raise public awareness of the risk of prenatal alcohol exposure and prevent FASD. NOFAS vice president Kathy Mitchell reflects on the unfair stigma surrounding women who do drink, “I’ve never met a woman who intentionally harmed her child by drinking. Either they didn’t know they were pregnant, they may have been misinformed of the risk by their doctor or the media, or they need and deserve access to therapeutic treatment services.”

NIAAA acting director Ken Warren sums up the aim of awareness day, “The message is simple, not just on Sept. 9, but every day. Women who are, who may be, or who are trying to become pregnant, should not drink alcohol.”