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No amount of alcohol safe for pregnant women

Fort Macleod Family and Community Support Services director Angie O’Connor reviews FASD information with Debbie Deak, a prevention conversation facilitator with the South Alberta FASD Network.

It’s time for Albertans to talk about alcohol and pregnancy.
That’s the conversation Debbie Deak is initiating in her role with the South Alberta FASD Network.
“FASD is a big issue,” Deak said. “The best we can do is try to educate people and get the message out.”
Deak was at Fort Macleod Library on Thursday night for a presentation on “The Prevention Conversation.”
That’s an Alberta government initiative to spread the word there is no safe time for a woman to drink while she is pregnant.
“People don’t want to talk about it,” said Deak, who has spent four years spreading the word. “It’s hard to get the conversation going.”
FASD, or Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, is a complex range of brain injuries that can result from prenatal exposure to alcohol.
A baby’s brain and nervous system develop — and are vulnerable to alcohol — throughout pregnancy.
Those injuries range from mild to severe and are influenced by the amount, frequency, pattern and timing of alcohol use, along with other maternal health factors.
FASD, which is a life-long condition for which there is no cure, costs the Alberta government $1.1-billion a year in supports for people who are affected.
FASD affects about four in 100 births in Alberta. Close to 800 babies are born with FASD in Alberta each year.
Deak said the estimated lifetime cost for caring with a child born with FASD in the province is $1-million to $3-million.
Not every child of every woman who consumes alcohol while pregnant will have FASD, but the risk is there.
Deak agreed that a woman drinking while pregnant is like playing Russian roulette — pulling the trigger without knowing if there is a bullet in the chamber.
The risk of a child developing FASD is high, considering 70.2 per cent of adult women surveyed in Alberta used alcohol in the past year.
Of that number. 10.2 per cent admitted to being heavy users of alcohol, or binge drinkers.
Combine that with 40 to 50 per cent of pregnancies being unplanned, and the fact many pregnancies go undetected in the early weeks, and the potential for problems escalates.
Deak stressed that FASD can impact anyone — not just people in a lower income bracket.
Women who are sexually active and consume alcohol are urged to use effective contraception.
Anyone considering getting pregnant should not consume alcohol. There is no safe amount of alcohol that a pregnant woman can consume.
As part of the Prevention Conversation, a pregnant woman’s partner, friends and family members are encouraged to support her in making healthy choices.
“We have to try and change our conversations that we have with women,” Deak said, explaining people need to be empathetic, rather than judgmental.
More information is at www.alberta.fasd.ca.
To arrange for Debbie Deak to make a presentation to your group, phone 403-330-8897 or e-mail deborah.deak@shaw.ca.

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