On Sept. 9, 2016, International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Awareness Day will be observed with the goal of increasing awareness of the risks of drinking alcohol to women who are pregnant or who are planning on becoming pregnant.
In an effort to support this mission, the CDC awarded the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine a grant for $350,000 per year for four years to train primary care providers and social workers how to ensure women have healthy pregnancies and prevent FASD.
“This grant provides us with staffing, diagnostic instruments and educational materials to train not only family physicians and primary care physicians but also obstetricians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants on how to properly screen and conduct brief interventions for alcohol use and overuse when a woman is pregnant or who may become pregnant,” said Dr. Roger Zoorob, chair and professor of family and community medicine at Baylor.
According to Zoorob, it is extremely important that women are made aware of the risks associated with drinking alcohol while pregnant or when planning to become pregnant.
“You don’t wait until you get pregnant to stop drinking because you don’t know you’re pregnant the first few weeks,” Zoorob said. “If you are pregnant but do not realize it and you are drinking, it can sometimes be a little too late to prevent FASD. Also, contraception is key if you do not want to become pregnant and are drinking.”
He warns the consequences of FASD can be severe.
“A child that has FASD could have cognitive or intellectual deficits. For example, the child may have delays in motor functioning like walking or rolling over. The child could also suffer from deficits similar to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and have poor social skills,” Zoorob said. “Many kids who have an FASD grow up to be affected adolescents as well, and some may even end up in the juvenile system because of their inability to recognize their deficit and to recognize that what they are doing is wrong.”
Zoorob said the most important message from FASD Awareness Day is that there should be zero drinking if you are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant.
“In spite of the surgeon general’s warning on the back of alcoholic beverages, the common public knowledge is that drinking a little bit when pregnant is okay when it really isn’t,” Zoorob said. “The recommendation from the surgeon general and the CDC is the amount allowed to drink is zero; not even one drink is acceptable.”
Zoorob also emphasized that it is a common misconception that FASD only impacts babies born to women who abuse alcohol. He said FASD is an issue that any woman who drinks while pregnant may face.