Giving a voice to the voiceless is what’s driving Whanganui District Health Board health promotion officer Chester Penaflor to get out and about in the Whanganui region over the next month to raise awareness about the risks of drinking while pregnant.
Mr Penaflor will be running Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) awareness stalls across four days in Marton, Taihape and Ohakune - as well as at Trafalgar Square in Whanganui city - this September.
The events are timed to support FASD Awareness Day on 9 September. Mr Penaflor says this date was chosen as a reminder about the nine months of pregnancy when an unborn child should be protected from the effects of alcohol. “Because unborn children have no voice, we must speak on their behalf,” Mr Penaflor says.
FASD is the name given to the problems a baby may have if the mother drinks alcohol during pregnancy. Since alcohol in the bloodstream passes easily through the placenta, the baby is exposed to the same blood alcohol level as the mother. This can affect the baby’s growth, especially the brain, with the risk of the baby having a range of life-long problems. Drinking alcohol can also increase the chances of premature birth, or losing the baby though miscarriage or stillbirth.
“By raising awareness about what causes FASD and the tragic consequences it can have on people’s lives, we hope to encourage mothers not to drink while pregnant - or while trying to get pregnant - so more babies are born healthy. Children should start life with the best chance to reach their full potential.
“FASD lasts a lifetime, there is no cure and it is 100 percent preventable. The month of September is a great opportunity to appeal to our community and educate our whanau and friends about the importance of abstaining from alcohol during pregnancy.”
In New Zealand, 19 percent of women report drinking alcohol at some time in their pregnancy – with the rate higher (28 percent) for women aged 15 to 24-years-old.
There is no safe time, type or amount of alcohol to drink when pregnant, and the best way to prevent FASD is by staying alcohol-free during pregnancy. It is never too late to stop drinking, and pregnant women should talk to their whanau, partner and friends about providing support – for example by also going alcohol-free, by discouraging others from offering alcohol and by making sure there are non-alcoholic drinks provided at social events.
Help is also available from midwives, doctors, nurses and other health professionals, or by calling the Alcohol Drug helpline on 0800 787 797.
FASD Awareness stalls:
Whanganui (Trafalgar Square) – 05 September 10 – 1pm
Marton (Countdown) – 12 September10 – 1pm
Taihape (New World) – 19 September 10 – 1pm
Ohakune (New World) – 26 September 10 – 1pm
12 Goldfinch St
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