It is a devastating condition that affects 36,000 Albertans. It can affect memory, create permanent nerve damage and learning disabilities. It is completely incurable, yet, 100 per cent preventable.
It is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and both Cheyenne Grayson and Susie Peters from the McMan Community Services Association held a “lunch and learn” event to teach several citizens from Pincher Creek about the condition.
“We hope that anything you take out of this, you’ll share with other people you know, so we can help prevent FASD,” Grayson said. “Because FASD is 100 per cent preventable.”
FASD was originally known as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, but the name was changed to reflect the multitude and diversity of symptoms that can arise in affected individuals.
“Much like autism, it ranges from profound disabilities to mild disabilities that you wouldn’t perhaps even notice,” Grayson said. “You can have ten people who are affected by FASD and they are all going to be completely different.”
The condition arises due to the maternal consumption of alcohol during pregnancy. Alcohol is considered a teratogen, a chemical which can bypass the blood barrier that exists between the mother and fetus and have harmful effects on the fetus’ development. Other teratogens include certain agricultural chemicals, Thalidomide and Accutane — a popular prescription acne treatment.
According to Grayson, 76 per cent of Canadian women reported they’d consumed alcohol in the past twelve months and more than 50 per cent of pregnancies are thought to be unplanned. With many women not realizing their pregnancy until the fourth or fifth week, this can result in accidental consumption which can affect the fetus and cause FASD.