Warning of dangers of drinking during pregnancy

Posted on in Health improvement

South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is urging staff, patients and visitors to be more aware of the dangers of drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

The maternity unit at The James Cook University Hospital is holding an awareness event on Tuesday 9 September 2014 from 9.30am to 12 noon to mark Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Awareness Day.

FASD is a lifelong disability that has no cure but it is preventable. It is a spectrum of behavioural, emotional, physical and neurological issues that are caused by the consumption of alcohol on a developing foetus during pregnancy.

FASD has a higher incidence rate than autism, Down’s Syndrome, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, spina bifida and sudden infant death syndrome combined.

Although it’s still under-diagnosed, statistics suggest that approximately 1% of all babies born may have some form of FASD, meaning around one baby is born each day in the North East with some form of the disorder.

The event at James Cook aims to raise awareness among staff, patients and visitors around the dangers of mothers drinking during pregnancy. Those attending can speak to a range of health experts and view a poster display and a 20-minute presentation.

Kay Branch, midwife consultant for public health at the trust said: “An alcohol free pregnancy really is the safest option. Researchers still don’t know how much alcohol is safe to drink when pregnant, however, we do know that the risk of damage to an unborn baby increases the more a woman drinks and that binge drinking (which for a woman is consuming six or more units in a single session) is especially harmful.”

The awareness event is part of a series of activities taking place across the community which aim to promote the “0 for 9” (no alcohol for nine months) message. Events have been planned by the maternal, infant and child health partnership, which is a collaborative jointly led by Middlesbrough Council and Redcar and Cleveland Council which aims to give children and young people the best start in life.

Michael Souter from the HILT (hospital intervention liaison team) team based at James Cook said: “We want to send a clear message to parents-to-be that alcohol and pregnancy don’t mix – the safest option is an alcohol free pregnancy.”

  • FASD-affected children often display a variety of learning disabilities and behavioural problems including:
  • Hyperactivity or attention problems
  • Learning difficulties – poor memory
  • Lack of abstract reasoning
  • Difficulties with time and mathematical concepts
  • Poor impulse control
  • Language delays – poor receptive language
  • Challenging behaviour
  • The inability to plan, learn from experience or control impulses
  • Difficulties in making or sustaining friendships
  • Sensory processing challenges
  • Sleeping disorders
  • Birth defects (eyesight, hearing, skeletal, facial anomalies, heart and limbs etc.)