Home > HSE marks International Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Awareness Day.

[Health Service Executive] HSE marks International Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Awareness Day. (08 Sep 2016)

It is in a baby’s best interests for a prospective mother not to drink alcohol while pregnant

The HSE is marking International Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Awareness Day to highlight the risks of drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy puts the unborn baby at risk of FASD, which encompasses a wide range of developmental problems caused by exposure to alcohol during pregnancy that may lead to life-long difficulties.

The need to highlight the risks associated with FASD are emphasised by a recent study showing a high prevalence of alcohol consumption during pregnancy in Ireland. (1)

Dr Mary O’Mahony, HSE Specialist in Public Health Medicine, said that women who may have had the occasional drink before they realised they were pregnant should not be worried, but that cutting out alcohol completely after that is both the safest and healthiest approach for the unborn baby, as no amount of alcohol has been shown to be safe to consume during pregnancy.

“Pregnant women often receive conflicting advice about drinking alcohol during pregnancy, from a variety of different sources. However, pregnant women need to know that no amount of alcohol can be said to be safe during pregnancy.

“Drinking alcohol during pregnancy carries a risk of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). FASD is a term used to describe the range of effects that can occur in an individual whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. These effects may be physical or mental, such as behavioural or learning disabilities, with possible lifelong implications.”

Dr O’Mahony advised: “That when a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, so does her unborn baby. During pregnancy alcohol passes from the mother’s bloodstream through the placenta and into the baby’s bloodstream, where it can affect its development. This damage may not be detected at birth, but may later show up in the form of behavioural, social, learning and attention difficulties in childhood, adolescence and throughout adulthood.”

The HSE is advising anyone who is planning to get pregnant or is pregnant to stop drinking as it is in the best interest of the unborn baby. If a woman is concerned about her drinking or needs support to stop drinking during pregnancy it is recommended that she speaks to a health professional such as a GP or Family Doctor, Midwife, Public Health Nurse or Obstetrician. The HSE Drugs & Alcohol Helpline 1800 459 459 (Mon.-Fri. 9.30-5.30pm) can also be contacted for support.

1. O'Keeffe LM, Kearney PM, McCarthy FP, Khashan AS, Greene RA, North RA, et al. Prevalence and predictors of alcohol use during pregnancy: findings from international multicentre cohort studies. BMJ Open. 2015;5(7):e006323.

This study, which examined data from the Screening for Pregnancy Endpoints (SCOPE) study, the Growing up in Ireland (GUI) study and the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System Ireland (PRAMS Ireland), found ‘alcohol use during pregnancy is highly prevalent, and evidence from this cross-cohort and cross-country comparison shows that gestational alcohol exposure may occur in over 75% of pregnancies in the UK and Ireland. Although low proportions of women engaged in heavy drinking, the adverse consequences of heavy alcohol consumption during pregnancy on birth outcomes, long-term gross motor function, and social, cognitive, emotional and behavioural outcomes in offspring make heavy gestational alcohol consumption a high public health priority. Additionally, since most women who consume alcohol do so at lower levels where the offspring growth and development effects are less well understood, the widespread consumption of even low levels of alcohol during pregnancy is a significant public health concern’.

Repository Staff Only: item control page