The Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Program addresses a number of health problems that are associated with alcohol use by mothers during pregnancy.
The main purpose of the program is twofold:
- reduce the number of babies born with FASD; and
- support children who are diagnosed with FASD and their families to improve their quality of life.
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can seriously harm an unborn baby. Each year in Canada, it is estimated that nine babies in every 3,000 are born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). The birth defects and developmental disabilities that result from FASD are preventable by avoiding alcohol during pregnancy.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is an umbrella term used to describe the range of disabilities and diagnoses that result from drinking alcohol during pregnancy. The impact and effects of FASD vary. Specific birth defects and the degree of the disability can depend on how much alcohol was drunk, how often and when during the pregnancy; they can also depend on the state of health of the pregnant woman. No amount or type of alcohol during pregnancy is considered safe.
It is estimated that in Canada, more than 3,000 babies a year are born with FASD, and about 300,000 people are currently living with it. Research suggests that the occurrence of FASD is significantly greater in Aboriginal populations, and in rural, remote and northern communities. Prevention, identification and intervention efforts are key to improving this situation.
A large number of pregnancies in Canada are unplanned, meaning that a large number of women in the early stages of their pregnancies - not knowing they are pregnant - may use alcohol and unknowingly cause damage.
If you suspect that a family member may have FASD, talk to your doctor about having him/her diagnosed. An early diagnosis can lead to interventions which will minimize the impact of FASD.
FASD is a national public health, education, economic and social concern as those affected suffer a lifelong disability and may need lifelong support. A great deal has been learned about the best way to prevent future births affected by alcohol and how to help those who live with FASD. From 2002 to 2006, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) funded several projects on FASD and how to help those who live with it.
Health Effects of FASD
Those who live with FASD may have mild to very severe problems with their health. They may have delays in their development, intellectual problems and problems in their social lives.
Examples of these include:
- learning disabilities, particularly in mathematical concepts;
- difficulty understanding the consequences of their actions;
- obsessive-compulsive disorder;
- physical disabilities such as kidney and internal organ problems; and
- skeletal abnormalities such as facial deformities.
There is no cure for FASD. People live with FASD for their entire lives, so early intervention is key to minimizing the disabilities associated with it.
For further information about this program please drop by the Health Centre and ask to speak to one of our nurses