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Foetal Alcohol Syndrome – Beware Twitter

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.

20 thoughts on “Foetal Alcohol Syndrome – Beware Twitter

  1. Interesting post Lesley , I agree with all you have said .As a adoptive mum of two children who were born to a chronic Alcholic ,I feel blessed they were ok even though when they were born at 26 weeks and weighed less than a KG and pure alcohol pored out with the afterbirth .(I have read this in their notes ) they are now in good health . Lauren spent time in Stoke Mandiville as she had severe breathing difficulties and was still showing major health problems up to two years after placement .Alchohol causes major problems , perhaps. Few pictures of children with FAC may have had more effect . I have seen some of these children and that should be enough of a shock .
    My Daughter is pregnant now and thank goodness has not drunk through her pregnancy .She did stop smoking for four months but has given into that vice ,this is hard for me but as you know you cannot physically stop people .Keep up the good work .

  2. Absolutely agree with everything you say – a great and important post

  3. This is a VIP (very important post) and I think a subject that gets overlooked all too easily. I completely gave up drinking when I was pregnant. Whilst I had a say, my unborn child didn’t – and to this day I still maintain that I do what is best for Grace NOT the other way around. Thank you so much for linking up with #PoCoLo x

    1. Thank you. I do agree that it does get overlooked far too often. Nice to find #PoCoLo and meet you all, hope to get to know your blogs must better in the near future x

  4. I don’t understand anyone thinking alcohol’s ok in pg. I stopped before I started trying.

    1. You know my feelings on this well. Thanks for the support x

  5. Really good post, and good on you for raising awareness of something that you care deeply about. I would be lying if I said I drank nothing while pregnant. I, like many I guess, drank before I realised I was pregnant. But I completely agree that you are playing with fire, and once I knew I was pregnant I didn’t drink, and in fact didn’t really until I’d stopped breast feeding. #PoCoLo

    1. All we can do is go with what we have and what we know at any given point in time. I’d much rather people admit they had a few and then discuss options and possibilities. Pretending it can’t, won’t or never has happened to anyone other than a complete and utter alcoholic is so silly, yet so many women sit on that shelf. I think it has to be destigmatised a bit so that people can be much more free to talk about it.

  6. Fantastic post! When pregnant I gave up smoking – it was frowned upon due to the issues it could cause my unborn baby. Why is alcohol any different they are both just as bad as each other?!

    I gave up smoking at 3 weeks pregnant (when i found out) and i did not smoke nor drink till after I had finished breastfeeding.

    1. All the drugs have potential for the babies. I struggle to understand how people want to keep going after they know they’re pregnant, but for some women, I guess the addiction seems to be more powerful than the baby welfare.

  7. Before reading your post, I didn’t really have any idea of the risks of drinking any alcohol and did have half a shandy and half a Guinness during my first pregnancy which I wouldn’t have had if government guidelines had been clearer. I chose not to drink the second time round.
    Fortunately, as far as we know so far my son hasn’t been affected.
    Good for you for raising awareness. I have a similar reaction to breastfeeding issues and you’re right, Twitter isn’t the ideal place for debate due to the character restrictions etc
    Guilt and the fear of being judged is a funny thing and makes people bury their heads in the ground rather than facing up to a problem. We should be honest about these things and ensure we get the right support and once we know better, we do better in future.

    1. There should be much more awareness out there of the possibilities as the risks are devastating to a child if it all goes wrong. Twitter isn’t good when there are several people on one thread jumping on the wrong things. I’ve learned a lesson not to talk to many people at once on sensitive issues as the right message does get lost.

  8. fab post, its great you are raising awareness on this. xx

    1. Thanks Wendy, BTW I really love your Angry Birds post. I will definitely be trying that with some of our kids.

  9. It is great you are raising awareness as like you say there are mixed messages out there. I never drank once I new I was pregnant and did find out quickly but I never thought not to drink when trying – I would now though so thank you. Not that I was a big drinker but the vision of alcohol going straight into the placenta is a great imagine to explain it.

    I have a friend who smoked during both pregnancies and it really upsets me that her doctor actually said it was OK as it would be too hard for her to stop as she had to come off her anti depressants. It made it so easy for her to do and say doc said so. Her kids are both thriving and as a mum to a prem baby who did everything right it makes me angry and sad.

    1. I’m not perfect and I make mistakes, so I was here trying to rectify what went wrong on Twitter, but it’s done it’s job by reading your comment so thank you for that. Every person who finds out a little bit more can pass it on to someone else. It must be quite hard to come onto a blog and write a comment like that, so I appreciate it totally. One of my friends has smoked through all her pregnancies, thankfully hers seem to be ok. I struggled with that too. Thank you x Gosh I just made a huge mess of that reply. Sorry if you get three comments back.

  10. So important that people shout these issues from the rooftops. The discussion, debate and theory are irrelevant next to living with FASD. Whether you are a mother having to come to terms with what you did – knowingly or not – or a chIld having to battle through a disability, knowing it was preventable.
    Thank you so much for posting. Its time the doctors and media got their ducks in a row. The only way to be sure is not to drink. Mx

    1. I think the living with it is what people don’t appreciate. It’s not ADHD or behavioural problems, it’s full on brain damage that is often so under diagnosed. Thank you for the comment. x

  11. Before I realised I was pregnant (it was about a week after ovulation) I had quite a lot to drink, we had friends staying and it just became a few days that ended up being drinking ones. I STILL feel guilty about this and worry. I really thought there was no chance I could be pregnant, we were trying but at my fertile time we both had flu! I prefer to avoid alcohol in pregnancy, I have had the odd small glass in previous pregnancies but actually think it’s safer to avoid altogether and it’s not such a hardship while you are carrying something so precious.

    1. A week after ovulation is very very early. I’d probably have done the same before adopting and finding out about FAS in such a rude awakening. I’d love all potential mums to know the dangers so they can decide for the future. I don’t think healthcare is helping terribly much though, they could do so much more. Thanks for the comment. x

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