Despite a national campaign, some Australian women continue to be unaware of the affects of drinking alcohol while pregnant, which causes Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.
Today, the National Organisation for FASD celebrates NOFASD Awareness Day and local ambassador Sharman Stone stressed the fact FASD is 100 per cent preventable.
‘‘If you don’t drink alcohol while you’re pregnant or while you’re trying to get pregnant, you cannot have a child with FASD,’’ she said.
FASD is described as a lifelong condition relating to permanent brain damage caused by fetal alcohol exposure.
‘‘It is a condition that is a symptom of parents either not being aware of the dangers of alcohol use when pregnant or planning a pregnancy or not being supported to stay healthy and strong during pregnancy,’’ local NOFASD board member Cheryl Dedman said.
Dr Stone said it was extraordinary Australia still had some of the highest rates of children affected by FASD.
‘‘So it’s important to get the message out there,’’ she said.
Ms Dedman said the effects of FASD varied considerably and it was sometimes referred to as the ‘invisible disability’ as it often went undetected.
‘‘Whether it be overlooked, ignored, attributed to another known non-genetic condition or even simply blamed on poor parenting or post birth environments,’’ she said.
Dr Stone said a child’s diagnosis was met with incredible guilt from their mother.
‘‘There are even some cases where the child will be diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum to spare the parents the guilt but in those instances the baby is not getting the best support possible.’’
This is coupled with the fact characteristics within the FASD spectrum are rarely apparent at birth unless accompanied by specific facial and growth factors which happen less frequently.
‘‘FASD is often not noticed until the child reaches school age when behavioural and learning difficulties become more evident,’’ Ms Dedman said.
As a result, she said it was vital service providers were FASD informed.
‘‘Knowing about FASD is not the same as understanding FASD,’’ Ms Dedman said.
Dr Stone said although there was no cure for FASD, a child could be helped if they received diagnosis and treatment early in life.
‘‘There is actually no diagnostic clinic for FASD in Victoria so we have to work hard to make sure there are diagnoses,’’ she said.
‘‘But the main thing is prevention.
‘‘The message is none for nine months.’’
For more information about NOFASD Awareness Day visit www.nofasd.org.au/community/international-fasd-awareness-day