We are incredibly lucky in that Sqk comes from a non-substance misuse background so is not at risk of FASD or one of the other alcohol related disorders. It is only when we have thought about matters that we realised we would not have got a local child from a substance misuse background due to DH being a community pharmacist in our local city.
However, I know several children who have got a FASD diagnosis or are suspected of having it. In particular one boy who we do see a lot of given he and Sqk are at the same school and his parents are good friends of ours. So I have some knowledge of how much it can affect families – so many of the adopters I know either in person or online are coping with one of the disorders associated with drinking in pregnancy. We were both very happy with the recent guideline changes that say no alcohol is safe in pregnancy and do not see it as ‘nanny state’ interfering with our lives but rather entirely sensible advice to prevent a lifelong condition.
People are astonished when I tell them that alcohol is more dangerous to the foetus than heroin. We’ve been lucky in that one the expert’s in FASD has been our LA medical advisor – and she does regular training sessions for prospective & approved adopters on drugs & alcohol. When we attended one 3 & a bit years ago, DH actually wrote it up as professional CPD due to what he learnt in it – he has been able to use some of what he has learnt to support his clientele.
I cannot completely comprehend how it can be living with a child with FASD/ARND but I get glimpses from what other adopters say and post online. I am glad that the effects of this entirely preventable condition are becoming more widely understood and known in the country as a whole. Yes some mothers will say I drank through pregnancy and it had no effect on my child but it so much down to individual metabolism and also luck. Only a small proportion of children with FASD have the facial features – as those occur when alcohol is taken at a very specific point in early pregnancy when the face is developing.
I always said if I had been able to become pregnant I would not have drunk during it – and in fact when we were trying to conceive I avoided drinking alcohol – it seemed such a minor thing to do to ensure the health of any children. I know for addicts it is difficult because they are addicts but we have a hidden alcohol issue within this country so it affects more than the children of acknowledged addicts. Estimates put it at around 5% of children born have some level of FASD so my major message when I am talking to young women is to remember that it is not just binge drinking but one or two drinks at the wrong time that can cause lifelong effects to your child so why risk it if you can avoid it. Yes don’t stress too much if you had a drink or two before you relaised you were pregnant if the pregnancy is an accident but if you are trying to become pregnant it may be best to give up drinking as well as taking folic acid.
My views are somewhat different to many of the mums I talk to in the school playground but I come at things from a very different perspective. I was chatting to another Mum this morning (whose son is probably autistic) who said she gave up alcohol in both her pregnancies as she really didn’t feel the risk was worth taking and it was a good thing to do for her children.