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- Health Unit Promotes the Importance of Alcohol-Free Pregnancies, Given the Risks of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder -

Expectant mothers, and those women trying to get pregnant, should heed this word of advice: there is no safe time, no safe amount and no safe type of alcohol to drink if you are expecting a baby.

A local health official is raising that point with women to help them realize the risks of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Also known as FASD, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder describes a range of disabilities, birth defects and brain damage that can affect babies whose mothers consume alcohol during pregnancy. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, FASD is the leading known cause of preventable development disability in the country affecting one per cent of the population, or approximately 350,000 Canadians.

“Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is only one of the problems that can develop when you drink even small amounts of alcohol during pregnancy,” says Laura Abbasi, a Registered Dietitian with the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit. “Consuming alcohol when you are pregnant can also lead to increased risk of miscarriages, stillbirths and low-birth weight infants.”

The Health Unit is highlighting the risks of drinking alcohol during pregnancy ahead of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness Day on September 9. The date falls on the ninth day of the ninth month of the year for a reason, says Abbasi. “It is timed to remind people that during the nine months of pregnancy, a woman should abstain from all forms of alcohol.”

This sentiment is echoed in Canada’s Low Risk Drinking Guidelines, which advise women who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or about to breastfeed, “to drink no alcohol at all” since it is the safest choice for them and their babies.

Abbasi notes that FASD can lead to brain damage, deformities of the bones and limbs, organ damage, slow growth and learning difficulties. These conditions are permanent and life-long, and can affect a child’s decision-making ability, relationship with others, ability to learn in school and future employment, she adds.

This fall, the Health Unit will be promoting the benefits of an alcohol-free pregnancy through public displays set up at partner agencies in Northumberland County, Haliburton County and the City of Kawartha Lakes. It is the same message the Health Unit shares in its programs, resources and services provided to expectant parents and families with young children in this area.

Abbasi notes that “mocktails,” or alcohol-free drinks, can be a good alternative for expectant mothers. “There are many mocktail varieties to suit every taste, and they can be served up with sliced fruits and in fancy cups or glasses to enhance their party-feel,” she says. For those women trying to start a family, mocktails may also be a better alternative to alcohol. “Preconception health can lay the foundation for how healthy a baby will be later in life,” says Abbasi. “The fact most women only find out they are pregnant well into their first trimester is also something to consider, especially when the first three months of pregnancy are key to the neurological and brain development of a baby.”

For more information on mocktails and other resources to support an alcohol-free pregnancy, visit the Best Start website or contact the Health Unit (toll-free at 1-866-888-4577 or


For media inquiries, contact:

Laura Abbasi, Registered Dietitian, HKPR District Health Unit, (905) 885-9100 or toll-free: 1-866-888-4577.

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«January 2019»