No amount of alcohol at any stage of pregnancy is safe for your baby, a HSE campaign will warn today.
Ireland is estimated to have the third-highest rate of foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) and it is reckoned that about 600 babies are born with foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) every year.
FASD causes life-long problems with a baby’s body, brain and development, which can create problems for them as children and later as adults.
The HSE’s Alcohol Programme spoke to women who were pregnant and women considering becoming pregnant when developing their campaign to mark Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Awareness Day that takes place today.
“The overall message we heard from these women was that there is a lot of misleading information and confusion around alcohol and pregnancy,” said the HSE.
“There are so many opinions, voices, feelings, and sources of advice that lead to confusion. There is a lack of clarity amongst this sea of voices and it can be very confusing to know the ‘right thing’ to do.
“The fact is that no amount of alcohol at any stage of pregnancy is safe for your baby.”
Alcohol passes from the mother’s blood into the baby’s blood via the placenta and can damage a baby’s developing brain and body.
One of the best things a woman can do during pregnancy to keep herself and her baby healthy is to avoid drinking alcohol and a new leaflet from the HSE explains why.
Specialist in public health medicine with the HSE, Mary T O’Mahony said pregnant women received conflicting advice about drinking and were often reassured by family and friends that an occasional drink will do no harm.
“But the fact is that there is no proven level of safe drinking during pregnancy. FASD causes life-long problems for babies,” said Dr O’Mahony.
“We do know that heavy or frequent drinking is more dangerous, and the more you drink, the greater the risk to your baby. But the only way to have zero risk is to drink zero alcohol.”
Only one in two people in Ireland who were surveyed claim to be aware of the illnesses and conditions that affect babies whose mother drank while pregnant, according to HSE research. and just over one in 10 people believe they have a good understanding of FASD, its symptoms and causes.
Drinking alcohol while pregnant can cause FASD — children can be hyperactive and have a poor attention span that affects their learning.
FAS is more serious and can happen when a woman drinks heavily during her pregnancy — the baby may suffer damage to its brain and spinal cord.
For more information: askaboutalcohol.ie/health/alcohol-and-pregnancy