The number of diagnosed cases of foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) has tripled in the last 16 years.
FAS is a very rare condition caused by heavy of frequent alcohol consumption during pregnancy. The condition can cause physical and cognitive problems such as facial abnormalities. Babies born with FAS often are born smaller than other babies and generally stay small throughout their life. Some babies may not have physical signs of FAS but a range of developmental disorders such as hyperactivity and learning difficulties.
Some fear that there are many in the UK have not been diagnosed, as there is often no sign of the physical condition. Where people are undiagnosed they will often struggle at school and not cope during adult life.
Susan Fleisher, chief executive of the National Organisation for Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, whose adopted daughter suffers from the condition, said: “The World Health Organisation says that one in 100 people has foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which is the umbrella term used to describe the conditions that occur in people who have been diagnosed with some, but not all, of the symptoms of foetal alcohol syndrome. But there have been studies in Italy and the US that say that between 2% and 5% of the population is affected by this.
“And, remember, Britain is the number one binge-drinking country in Europe. The chances are we are closer to 5%, although we can’t say that for sure because it is under-diagnosed and difficult to diagnose. Only 20% have the physical signs of this condition such as small, wide-set eye openings, flattened filtrum, thin upper lip, lower ears, different creases in the hands and there can be skeletal damage. Those are the physical things, but if you don’t see them, then perhaps you don’t ask the question.”
More than half of the women in the UK drink more than the recommended daily amount, and a quarter of those drink more than double the recommended amounts. In 2002, around 200,000 women were admitted to hospitals due to alcohol abuse. In 2010, that figure had risen to 437,000.
The Department of Health advises that mothers do not drink alcohol whilst pregnant and the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence advises women to avoid alcohol in the first 3 months to reduce the use of miscarriage.
In 2007 Lord Mitchell introduced an alcohol labelling bill in the House of Lords which sought to issue a government warning on the labels of alcohol products, which reads: ‘Drinking alcoholic beverages during pregnancy, even in small quantities, can have serious consequences for the health of the baby.’ However, the bill failed to gain a sponsor in the House of Commons.
Berger, who uncovered the new figures, said: “The government must ensure that expectant mums have the information they need to make informed choices during their pregnancy. Instead, ministers have relied too heavily on the drinks industry to do it for them.
“Government must stop putting the interests of business before the health of mums and babies and take a bolder approach.”
Should it be illegal to consume alcohol whilst pregnant?
For full article please see <https://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/jun/21/pregnant-women-alcohol-abuse>
Hollie Le Cras