The best way to raise awareness for foetal alcohol syndrome?

Foetal Alcohol SyndromeA newly rolled out advertising campaign based in Toronto aims to highlight the dangers and damaging effects of foetal alcohol syndrome. FASlink (the Fetal Alcohol Disorders Society) is responsible for these challenging, poster based advertisements appearing across the state.

A certain amount of shock value is used in the posters, with two pregnant women obscured by the positive words “Joy” and “love”, with their bared pregnant bellies forming part of each word. Aimed at providing bringing awareness to fetal alcohol syndrome through positivity as opposed to pure shock or disturbing imagery, it is hoped that these images will help women become more aware of the dangers associated with excessive alcohol consumption during their pregnancies.

It goes without saying that awareness of fetal alcohol syndrome is incredibly important. It is, in terms of public awareness, something of an insidious ailment, partially due to the sheer widespread nature of alcohol consumption across the globe. The damaging effects of FAS can occur with even mild intake of alcohol during the pregnancy period, a fact that many soon-to-be mothers have found alarming, disturbing and worrying.

With a Canada based study putting figures of FAS spectrum disorders at 10%, the issue is affecting a huge amount of children. The study undertaken in Canada has estimated that an alarming 37% of babies are exposed to binge drinking sessions throughout the pregnancy period; this has been defined as drinking in excess of five drinks in a single sitting. While understandable, an equally significant number are exposed to what was considered moderate drinking throughout pregnancy; between one and four drinks consumed on a night.

The danger of FAS is in its subtlety; as we are all aware, alcohol is a massively prevalent substance that is enjoyed on a very regular basis by the majority of citizens across the entire globe. As a woman grows up around alcohol and enjoys it herself it can easily become part of life, a tool for easing social situations as well as having a good time. The transition into pregnancy can happen without true appreciation of the dangers involved in even mild amounts of alcohol consumption. This places the child at incredible risk and tragically can become reality without the mother ever intending to do harm to her child.

With ethanol affecting a myriad of different genes and cells, as well as influences on serotonin production, it is far from a mild substance. The same Canada based study referenced previously in this article estimates that one fifth of children in school receive special education for conditions that are caused by prenatal alcohol exposure.

It is due to these dangers that adverts such as these Toronto based posters are so critical. It is fair to say that a mother would never wish harm on her child. That said, the danger comes in lack of awareness on what even a small amount of alcohol can do during pregnancy. The risk of irreversible damage can not only affect the life of the child, but also the mother who will provide for the child throughout their life.

Minimization of FAS through education is a noble cause indeed and can result in vast differences in quality of life for both mother and child.

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