Friday, September 9, 2011

Take it from me. Be Safe: have an alcohol-free pregnancy

Every year, 3000 children in Canada are born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).  FASD affects over 300,000 Canadians at an estimated cost of $2 million dollars per person over the lifetime.

FASD is an umbrella term used to describe the range of disabilities caused ONLY by the use of alcohol during a pregnancy. The most serious disability is brain damage.  My son, adopted at birth, was diagnosed with FASD at age six, and yes, he's brain damaged.

FASD is irreversible. It’s a lifelong disability. There is no cure, but it IS preventable.

That’s the message a group of parents and professionals, including myself, were spreading this morning to honour international FASD Awareness day. Around the world, people like us were doing the same, as we’ll do every year on September 9, the ninth day of the ninth month.

Dozens of us assembled in the Great Hall of Toronto’s Union Station to greet commuters on their way to work. Looking a little silly with our t-shirts stuffed with balloons to emulate pregnant women, we passed out brochures, rang bells and gave speeches to reach the hordes of incoming commuters rushing through the train station.

At 9:09, we stood in silence for a pregnant pause. During my silence, I could feel tears well up, thinking about my son and the hardships his disability have brought both him and our family. Our son’s brain damage affects his ability to learn, concentrate, remember things, interact socially, and understand cause and effect. He has a sweet and kind spirit, but dropped out of school and is unable to hold a job. At 24, we're still helping him find his place in the world.

This is not what you  want this for your child. Or anyone’s child. Trust me.

There is no known safe level of alcohol use during pregnancy, and there is NO safe time to drink. Many people think that it’s okay to have a drink or two after a few months when the baby’s brain has stopped growing. Not true. A baby’s brain is developing throughout pregnancy, so the safest choice is no alcohol at all.

One kind of alcohol is no different from another. All alcohol harms, whether it’s beer, coolers, wine or spirits.

Many women understandably worry about the few drinks they may have had before they knew they were pregnant. Having a small amount of alcohol before you knew is not likely to harm your baby, but it’s essential to stop drinking as soon as you know.

My son’s birthmother was a binge drinker. We didn’t know, though, until he was diagnosed with FASD and we went back to her with the diagnosis. She then admitted her drinking habits. This is not an uncommon story. Few people ever heard of FASD when my son was born 24 years ago, and most people, including doctors, didn’t have a clue how dangerous it was to drink during pregnancy.

But now we DO KNOW. The message is clear. Don’t drink while pregnant.

So pass on this recipe for a  tasty ‘mocktail’ to any pregnant woman you might know:

                                   Backyard Caesar Mocktail

  1. Rim a tall glass with fresh lime and celery salt
  2. Fill the glas with ice and add 2 tp spicy BBQ sauce, ¼ oz. lime juice and 4 oz. Clamato.
  3. Stir to mix. Garnish with a beef pepperette
For more non-alcoholic recipes:

    To learn more about FASD, ask questions or share concerns, call:

    Motherisk 1-877-FAS-INFO (I-877-327-4636
    Your healthcare provider
    Your local health unit
    Telehealth Ontario 1-866-797-0000

    For more information:


    1. Awesome post. Good for you! I would love to see a display like this in our city. Maybe I will aim for next year. Our Dd has FASD too. She struggles with a lot and it makes me sad too. There are far too many kids still being misdiagnosed. Mishandled and even made worse by the school.


    2. Hi Paula - Thanks for your comment. You're right about kids still being misdiagnosed. As well, too many are not being diagnosed at all, just considered to be "bad kids," especially in school. In some ways, it was a relief to get our son diagnosed because it helped explain his behaviour.

      You mention that you'd like to see a display like this in your city. I'm not sure where you live, but perhaps you might think about organizing something for FASD Awareness Day next year. Lots of organizations could supply you with resources, you'd just have to get a group of people out for the event. could give you some help, as would

      I wish you good luck with your daughter. It's a struggle, I know.