FASD is preventable
First and foremost FASD is a preventable disability.
Since the introduction of alcohol into New Zealand by European settlers, Maori society recognised this adverse outcome and called for greater control of the supply to Iwi and hapu .
However, it took until the end of the 20th Century before New Zealand authorities accepted that drinking during pregnancy posed a significant risk to public health and well-being and began to take steps to address the problem.
How many babies may be affected each year?
Although not all alcohol-exposed pregnancies will result in FASD, conservatively the rate is estimated at 1 in 100 live births and up to 1 in 20 in communities that experience higher rates of alcohol use [15,16].
Pregnant women do not deliberately set out to cause brain damage in their unborn child. There are many wider factors which contribute to drinking in pregnancy:
- A normalisation of drinking (and heavy drinking) among women has occurred over the past few decades.
- Many women may not know they are pregnant when they are drinking. At least 50% of pregnancies in New Zealand are unplanned with the result that many women will be unaware they are pregnant while drinking.
- Young women are often targeted for alcohol promotion through advertising, social media and alcoholic products which are designed to appeal to their tastes (e.g. RTDs).
- Many health professionals do not routinely ask women of childbearing age about their alcohol use.
- There are societal and media myths about the safety of drinking during pregnancy
- There are no mandatory Government health warnings of the risk of drinking during pregnancy on the product or at the point of sale.
- Some women have not been raised in a stable loving home with good role models. Some may drink alcohol because of partner abuse, post-traumatic stress, depression, and/or addiction.
- Some women may have been born affected by alcohol themselves impairing their judgement and behaviour. Drinking during pregnancy can be an inter-generational problem.