Alcohol is used by many adults and youth in our society.
Approximately 73% of women between the ages of 18 – 44 consumed alcohol in the past year.
The unplanned pregnancy rate in Canada is approximately 40% and about 15% of women report drinking during pregnancy.
But drinking during pregnancy can have harmful effects on an unborn child.
Alcohol is a poison that can damage the baby’s growing cells and cause lifelong disabilities.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is the leading cause of developmental disabilities in Canada.
Joan MacGillivray, community action coordinator with Nechako Valley Community Services in Fort St. James, is determined to raise awareness about FASD.
“On Sept. 9, I will be at the high school for breakfast sharing information about this disorder. Then I will be at The Key Resource Centre for brunch followed by a visit to Nak’azdli Health Centre. “It’s important women learn more about this disorder and the lasting effects it can have on an unborn children,” MacGillivray said.
“The Pub will also be offering non-alcoholic drinks to pregnant women.”
But MacGillivray says that this isn’t something that affects low income mothers as often perceived.
According to Bulkley Valley FASD Committee, it’s time to look beyond stereotypes. Women who are not as easily identified as drinking during pregnancy include: women over 35 years, women who are social drinkers, women who are highly educated, women with a history of sexual and emotional abuse and women of high socioeconomic status.
In Alberta, 40.5 % of women who earn $80,000 or more annually report drinking during pregnancy; 23% of women who earn between $60,000 and $79,999 annually report drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
Of all children exposed to alcohol during pregnancy, 40% will have a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and 4% will have the most severe form of it called Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
The disorder includes mental, physical, behavioural and learning disabilities ranging from mild to severe.
“This is not just the woman’s responsibility as much as it is the community’s responsibility,” MacGillivray said.
Women don’t intend to hurt their unborn baby when drinking during pregnancy. Often, drinking hides other issues such as: depression, domestic violence, past or current abuse, isolation, feeling overwhelmed or the need to fit in with co-workers or peers.
For MacGillivray, it all starts with community support.
“If we have healthy minds, we have healthy babies.”