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FASD Awareness Month: The best gift a mother can give

News of a new addition coming to a family is exciting news to many of us. The parents, family and friends of the parents-to-be are all planning the future with anticipation. There are lists of things a new baby will need. There will be a baby shower. There is the list of things that Mom needs to do as she progresses through her pregnancy. And it is hoped that she will not have to have a special needs list after the baby arrives and develops through childhood.

Many people take for granted that a pregnant woman will do everything she can to give her baby the best possible start in life. But it’s not that cut-and-dried, that simple. She may just not “get it.” Or she may be addicted and struggling to stop abusing substances during her pregnancy.

September is FASD Awareness and Prevention Month. Wednesday is FASD Awareness Day. The goal of the month-long observance is to make you aware of the risks of drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) is a term that covers several conditions, each of which means a lifetime of health problems that will never go away, conditions that can affect future generations, says SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.)

Every time a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, so does her unborn child. The alcohol crosses the placenta from the mother’s blood stream to the baby’s. The blood alcohol level in the baby is the same or higher than the mothers and the baby feels the effects longer than the mother.

FASD covers three distinct conditions: Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND) and Alcohol-Related Birth Defects (ARBD. About 40,000 babies are born in the U.S. annually with these issues. Nearly 1,200 babies are born under the FASD umbrella annually, costing Ohio taxpayers $50,364,720 a year for special services these children need. (Nationally, the cost is $6 billion annually.) Defects can happen anywhere in the body. Cell death from alcohol can cause abnormalities in the baby. The brain (central nervous system) development is affected by alcohol exposure, preventing the brain from functioning properly. Alcohol consumption causes blood vessels to constrict, preventing nutrients and oxygen getting to the fetus. Another concern is that the “toxic byproducts” of alcohol metabolism may be concentrated in the brain which develops throughout pregnancy.

Impairments may include:

– Mental retardation

– Learning disabilities

– Attention deficit

– Hyperactivity

– Problems with impulse control, language, memory and social skills.

Early diagnosis may improve a child’s development, advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and more information is available at both the CDC and the SAMHSA websites. This article is not intended to be a lecture or “scare tactic.” It is intended to inform, to provide a few words to the wise. The “inconvenience” of abstaining from alcohol during pregnancy and breastfeeding will pay off later. FASD is preventable. Just don’t drink during pregnancy. This is the best gift a mother can give her baby toward a healthy start.

Family Recovery Center recently celebrated a victory within the WomanFocus program as a Fleming House resident gave birth to a healthy baby boy born drug-free. Mom and baby are doing well. The agency has been awarded $117,200 from the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to be used specifically for women’s treatment in fiscal year 2016. This funding supports the WomanFocus program which provides comprehensive, holistic, gender-specific, trauma-based AOD treatment services for approximately 130 women with addictions each year. Treatment modalities include assessment, individual, family, group and intensive outpatient trauma-based therapy; case management; medication assisted treatment therapy; sober housing; Aftercare; and linkage to community supports such as vocational and educational assistance, primary health care for self and dependent children, transportation, entitlements, child care, food and nutritional counseling, self-help involvement and other sober supports available. In addition, all participants’ children are screened and referred for services as necessary.

Family Recovery Center promotes the well being of individuals, families and communities with education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues. For more information, contact FRC at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468 or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org.