University of Ulster healthcare researchers will join leading medical professionals today to focus on the risks of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).
The conference, entitled Alcohol-Free Wombs – is timed to coincide with the worldwide FASD Day, and will draw attention to the risks women run if they continue to drink alcohol while pregnant.
University of Ulster lecturer and event organiser Victor Robinson said :
“On the 9th minute of the 9th hour of the 9th day of the 9th month, communities around the world are holding events to raise awareness of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD).
“The primary aim of our event today is to provide a platform to launch International FASD Awareness Day in Northern Ireland (NI). Our intentions are first of all to connect people who care directly or indirectly about the cause of FASD in NI; secondly to recognise the impact of FASD on families and children; and finally to identify ways in which we can better support each other.
“The risk of brain damage in the fetus – if the mother drinks alcohol while pregnant – is significant. The Central Nervous System (the brain) is the organ most vulnerable and most often injured by pre-natal exposure to alcohol;
“Significant fetal damage can occur before a woman realises she is pregnant. Drinking alcohol during the first trimester (first 3 months) of pregnancy is even more dangerous than drinking alcohol later in pregnancy.”
The World Health Organisation estimates that there is no safe amount of alcohol to consume during pregnancy. Any consumption of alcohol whatsoever, puts the fetus at risk.
“The tragedy is that FASD is 100% preventable. If alcohol is not consumed during pregnancy, FASD cannot occur," said the researcher.
There are no ‘safe’ forms of alcohol All types of alcohol are potentially damaging to fetal development. beer, home-brew, spirits, wine – anything containing alcohol is harmful.
“The damage alcohol does to affected individuals is permanent. There is no therapy regime or medication that can undo brain damage;
“Early diagnosis and intervention is critical to promoting positive long-term outcomes for individuals with FASD."
The conference will also hear from NI Chief Medical Officer, Michael McBride, as well as academics from other institutions including QUB and the University of the West of England.