Home > Foetal alcohol problems possible in 7% of births.

[Irish Medical Times] , Connors, Aoife Foetal alcohol problems possible in 7% of births. (11 Jan 2012)

External website: http://www.imt.ie/newsletter/2012/01/foetal-alcoho...

A new study estimates that 560 (7 per cent) of the more than 73,000 babies born in Ireland during 2010 could have a foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).

The estimated number represents the level of heavy drinkers in the country — that is, those consuming more than six drinks.

However, the study states that the 7 per cent figure might be an underestimate, as “damage can be done at low dose also”.

FASD is an umbrella term encompassing the specific range of conditions arising from prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE). These conditions include: foetal alcohol syndrome, partial foetal alcohol syndrome, alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder and alcohol-related birth defects.

On December 1 last, Michele Savage, Co-ordinator of FASD Ireland, made a presentation to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children in respect of minimum pricing alcohol and addressing prevention, diagnosis, treatment, research on and epidemiology of FASD in Ireland. The group highlighted that “although Ireland’s Chief Medical Officer has, since 2007, advised that it’s best not to drink alcohol before, or during pregnancy, there has, to date, been no public campaign to drive this message home”.

FASD Ireland was set up in 2002 by a group of foster carers in Ireland in response to the dearth of awareness of the various conditions caused by prenatal alcohol exposure and to provide access to information about possibilities for diagnosis and treatment for families caring for affected babies, children, young people and adults.

The FASD submission said: “The role and the cost of alcohol’s contribution in both fiscal and societal terms to maternal health, miscarriage, premature delivery, every type of congenital birth defect, neonatal abstinence syndrome, low birth weight, stillbirth and perinatal death must be evaluated and included in data both at EU and at national level.”

PAE is associated with miscarriage, premature delivery, various types of congenital birth defects and disability, neonatal abstinence syndrome, low birth weight, stillbirth, perinatal death and FASDs. The group noted that FASDs lasts a lifetime, and 85-90 per cent of the conditions caused by PAE would not be evident at birth. “PAE particularly affects the brain’s role and behaviour in psychiatric conditions,” added Savage.

The submission noted: “Alcohol has the widest range of harmful effects/outcomes in pregnancy of any of the recreational drugs, yet until recently the main thrust for healthy pregnancy had been to get women to stop smoking.”


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