Every time I write about FAS, someone takes offence, no matter how much I try to word it carefully. Alcohol is an emotive subject and people seem to read things into what is said that are actually not there. Before I start talking about this, I have always said, and will continue to say that I do drink the occasional glass of wine, so accusations that I think any drinking at all is akin to being a junkie, or that I meant nobody should ever drink any alcohol at all is just not true.
I’m going to put my side here where I can write it out at length, and how it should have read in Tweets.
FAS Aware, the registered charity for the condition has this to say.
“Alcohol in pregnancy can cause a lifetime of problems for you and your child. No matter how small the amount of alcohol consumed, there is a great risk of harming your unborn baby. Stay aware. Stay away from alcohol.”
“Women who are pregnant, or who are considering pregnancy, should be advised not to consume any alcohol: BMA Report, 2007.”
I sent a tweet that said drinking alcohol around day 20 of pregnancy can lead to the facial deformities that FAS throws up as that’s when the mid face is formed.
It went on to discussions about how people at 20 days don’t even know they are pregnant. Somewhere along the line, conversations got slightly mixed up with I think some people not sure who was replying to who. I do consider drinking alcohol just as dangerous as taking drugs during pregnancy. Nobody knows how much alcohol affects any one baby as alcohol goes straight through the placenta to the unborn baby, completely unfiltered. The body is tricked into thinking it’s vitamin D. Somewhere along the lines, my opinion was misunderstood as having accused any women who drink alcohol at all of being like junkies.
People can choose to drink or not to drink, that’s their choice, but I do care about the poor babies that get affected, whether the mum knows she was pregnant or not. Some babies born to alcohol and drug users are born fine. It’s all a RISK, albeit a high one for some babies. A risk means you know the potential and you take the choice to chance it. If it goes wrong, you choose whether to live with it, pretend it hasn’t happened, or give the babies up for fostering or adoption.
Admitting the condition exists isn’t the same as acknowledging the effects, the life changing devastation and the lack of people who actually give a damn once the more seriously affected kids start growing up. I hope none of them ever have to live that nightmare.
I do agree that the medical profession doesn’t give out enough information on drinking in pregnancy and some may well still be issuing out of date advice, but the BMA advised in 2007 that women should be told to stop drinking even if they are trying to get pregnant.
It was my tweet, and my conversation. We don’t all have to agree with everything that each other says, and I was not being given the opportunity there to actually explain fully, so here I am. Twitter isn’t always the best place to have a serious conversation as it is easy to misread what’s being said out of context.
If someone knew they had taken alcohol in pregnancy, I’d hope they would stand up and be counted if their kids started showing the signs and got them the help they need. FAS is often seen as the shameful condition and it’s mostly fostered and adopted kids who get diagnosed. We don’t have to live with the shame that birth parents could be subjected to. Many women also seem to think that it’s only really heavy drinkers or alcoholics whose children are at risk, but that simply isn’t true. Alcohol is a drug, it’s just a legal one.
My whole point is that at 20 days old, alcohol can seriously damage a foetus and it is 100% avoidable. That’s all I was trying to say. Disability is either inflicted on someone by themselves, someone else, or it’s a chance of life & nature.
FAS is 100% avoidable in the same way as babies born with drug addiction. It’s not like getting in a car or bus, or train, or getting a virus or crossing a street. None of those are really 100% avoidable in a well-functioning daily life in our society.
We all choose our own risks and decide what’s worth taking. If a mum drank alcohol and her child had FAS, I wouldn’t judge her for saying she had taken alcohol when she was pregnant, but I would be very disappointed by a parent who pretended their alcohol drinking wasn’t to blame while their affected kids don’t get the support they need.
I didn’t mean to upset anyone and my whole point with FAS is to tell people the risks. I hope this sets the record straight, but if it doesn’t, there isn’t anything I can do about it.
I’m not going to stop talking about FAS because it makes some people uncomfortable and I am entitled to my opinion too, even if it is a minority as a carer for a badly affected FAS child.
This post is also about awareness, as talking about FAS in any context is always another opportunity to reach one more person who perhaps didn’t know that drinking early in pregnancy might have devastating effects. I’ve written this quickly as I suspect if I go back and edit it, I might end up with a ten page essay, so if you have seen any spelling errors, turn a blind eye.