The greatest gift you can give a baby is the opportunity to thrive. Sadly, rates of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) are on the rise, with the Australian Medical Association (AMA) estimating that 2-5% of children are living with this disability. The brain damage associated with FASD can occur before parents are aware of a pregnancy, and those first weeks after conception are at a high risk of unintentional alcohol exposure.
As Christmas approaches, we like to celebrate with our friends, families, and colleagues, and invitations to “catch up for a few drinks” are common. If you choose to drink alcohol this Christmas season, contraception is recommended to prevent an alcohol-exposed pregnancy. If you’re planning a pregnancy, or may be pregnant, it is safest to avoid alcohol completely. Choose other drinks which make your Christmas special, for example sparkling juices, soda water, cherry juice, hot chocolate, a selection of Christmas mocktails, or a non-alcoholic gin and tonic.
There is no safe level of alcohol during pregnancy because, due to complex factors including genetics, it is impossible to predict whether or not a child who is prenatally exposed will be born with FASD. The amount and frequency of alcohol is a major predictor of FASD, but in some cases even small amounts of alcohol have been found to result in lifelong disability for the baby.
FASD can result from parents not being aware of a pregnancy, not being aware of the dangers of alcohol use when pregnant or planning a pregnancy, or not being supported to stay healthy and strong during pregnancy. A large study found that over 60% of pregnant women drank before they knew were pregnant. Recent research also links a father’s alcohol consumption to the health of his baby, with a father’s drinking patterns being linked to a range of altered neurological, behavioural and biochemical outcomes for his children (read more). Health professionals recommend that both parents cease drinking alcohol prior to conception.
As many Australian Christmas celebrations have a focus on drinking, declining an alcoholic beverage can be isolating. It is extremely important for family and friends to support women who are, or could be, pregnant in providing the best chance for a healthy baby. If you know someone who is, or could become, pregnant, support them by offering alcohol-free drink options at every event. You may choose to decline alcohol yourself when you celebrate special occasions with them. Follow this link for delicious mocktail recipes or make up your own! It is often the glass which makes a celebration feel special, so ensure your alcohol-free options are nicely presented.
If you have any questions or concerns please call our confidential hotline on 1800 860 613 or contact us online.
Read more about alcohol and pregnancy
View our FASD facts
If you have a child with FASD, you may wish to read our blog on preparing for Christmas.
If you are celebrating with someone who has FASD or another disability, you might be interested to read the article How to Help Families of Kids With Disabilities Feel Welcome at Holiday Gatherings
It can be easy to get swept up in alcohol-infused celebrations at Christmas time, so we asked these children to remind us what Christmas is all about.
Follow this link to read more NOFASD Australia blogs