‘There is no guaranteed safe level of alcohol use at any time during your pregnancy or even when you’re trying to get pregnant’ – Centres for Disease Control and Prevention .
What is FASDs?
Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders is a term that encompasses a number of conditions an infant can experience if exposed to alcohol during pregnancy. Damage can be done at any stage during pregnancy and alcohol can affect the development of a foetus’ nervous system, brain and other organs such as the heart or kidneys. It can also lead to poor nourishment.
As mentioned previously, a “safe” amount of alcohol is not known. The National Health and Medical Research Council and the World Health Organisation therefore strongly recommended that women who are planning pregnancy or who are pregnant abstain from alcohol consumption – to eliminate the risk of any alcohol related disorders.
‘When you drink, your baby drinks’ 
Characteristics of the conditions include mental and physical disabilities and behavioural/ emotions issues. Common problems include:
- Difficulties surrounding learning and memory retention
- Trouble following/ understanding directions
- Uncontrolled emotions
- Struggles with socialising
- Difficulty with some daily life tasks such as feeding
These characteristics are not always detected early on. Some aren’t recognised until children are of school age and start to experience the above difficulties.
The most serious outcome of gestational alcohol consumption is Foetal Alcohol Syndrome. This can result in facial and nervous system abnormalities. The image below presents the aesthetical abnormalities.
The 2010 National Drug Strategy Household Survey found that of the women surveyed :
- 51% of women consumed alcoholic beverages whilst pregnant. This was a decrease from 64% in 2001 .
- Ninety five percent of the women decreased the amount they drank previous to falling pregnant .
- Of the women breastfeeding, 34% abstained from drinking alcohol and 62% drank less 
Change in alcohol consumption once pregnant, women aged 14-49
Source: The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 
The continuation or cessation of drinking appeared to be largely influenced by age. As the age of the mother increased, so did the likelihood of her continuing to drink throughout the pregnancy – as shown in the table below.
Number of women, by age group, who ceased or continued drinking once discovering their pregnancy (n=355)
Source: National Drug Strategy Household Survey 
It was also found that 23.7% of women, who were not pregnant, stated that they would continue to drink if they were to fall pregnant .
Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders are 100% preventable. There is no need for alcohol during pregnancy and thus alcohol intake should be ceased during this time – in order to give your child the healthiest possible start to life. However, stopping drinking at any stage during pregnancy is still a positive step.
- Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Awareness Day [internet]. [Updated 2012 Aug 31; cited 2014 Sept 8].
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Risk Factors: Alcohol Use in Pregnancy [internet]. 2013 [Cited 2014 Sept 8].
- Callinan S, Room R. Alcohol Consumption During pregnancy: Results from the 2010 National Drug Strategy Household Survey. Melbourne: Centre for Alcohol Policy Research; 2012 Feb
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This article was written by our dietitian Belinda Elwin who is a Dietitians Association of Australia member and Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist.
If you have questions about drinking whilst pregnant, make an appointment. We‘ll provide you with a simple and effective routine targeted to your concerns. Contact us today.