Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is an umbrella term describing the range of effects that can occur in an individual prenatally exposed to alcohol. These effects may include physical, mental, behavioral and/or learning disabilities with lifelong implications.[i]
Alaska has the highest rate of FASD in the nation among states that track this data. More than 120 Alaska children are diagnosed with FASD each year, though the number of actual cases is estimated to be even greater. There are no diagnostic criteria for FASD, only diagnostic guidelines for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Any woman is at risk of having a child with FASD if she drinks alcohol during pregnancy, whether she knows she is pregnant or not.
Alcohol use during pregnancy is the leading known cause of developmental disability and birth defects in the United States.
No level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy has been determined safe; therefore, most recommendations for alcohol consumption suggest complete abstinence from alcohol (CDC 2004). Although this is the standard recommendation, it is not widely understood. There is conflicting information given by health practitioners and the community.
The purpose of this statewide multimedia campaign is to raise awareness about FASD and its lifelong effects, and to motivate women to know their pregnancy status before consuming alcohol. The intent is to inform, move and motivate Alaskans in an effort to prevent occurrences of FASD in Alaska.
In general, there is a high level of knowledge that excessive alcohol use during pregnancy is harmful to an unborn baby. However, many women receive misinformation about alcohol and pregnancy, including the consequences of alcohol use, safe times to drink during pregnancy and safe amounts or types of alcohol. The Trust is working to provide clear, accurate and direct information about the effects of drinking while pregnant and to increase knowledge in the following areas[iii]:
- Alcohol use during pregnancy can cause birth defects, brain damage and/or behavioral/cognitive challenges.
- It is best to stop drinking before conception.
- It is safest not to drink any alcohol during pregnancy.
- There is no known safe time or amount to drink during pregnancy.
Why is Diagnosis Important?
Because most people with FASD have no visible signs, their problems may go undiagnosed or wrongly blamed on parenting or other disorders. Early diagnosis and intervention can contribute to positive long-term outcomes. Accurate diagnosis can:
- Help the person receive appropriate services.
- Aid communication among clinicians, caregivers, educators and families.
- Provide better understanding by family members.
For information and to find help regarding FASD in your area click here.
To find resources in your community to help with substance abuse problems, call 2-1-1 Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm or access their website anytime.