Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) can have an immense impact on an individual's lifestyle and can also leave a child with lifelong disabilities.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder(FASD) is a disorder caused when a woman drinks alcohol while pregnant. Exposure to alcohol can lead to severe disabilities for the offspring that can last their complete life-span.
According to the NHS, exposure to alcohol during pregnancy can affect the fetus in many ways like weak growth, having distinctive facial features, learning difficulties, and behavioural problems. During extreme conditions, it can even lead to a miscarriage. The main reason for FASD due to alcohol exposure is that the baby’s soft tissues are unable to process alcohol, which is passed from the mother's blood to the placenta, in the same manner that an adult can. This leads to damaged cells in the baby's brain, spinal cord, and other parts of the body. The NHS further assures that FASD can be prevented entirely if no alcohol is consumed during pregnancy and that no level of alcohol is considered safe during the time.
Thank you for your observations #FASD - Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder - a lifelong condition as a result of a person being exposed to alcohol before birth. You may like to visit our website and download our free factsheet ‘What is FASD?’ #FASDworkingTogether pic.twitter.com/hTvdOkagGQ— FASD Hub Scotland (@FasdhubScotland) November 7, 2019
Eleven-year-old Reece and his brother Jordan are one of the many children suffering from FASD. The McNamara family adopted them at a very early age, and both of them exhibit developmental delays and thin top lips, which are common features in FASD children. The children are very particular about their daily routine and simply don't like changes. Every activity from when they wake up in the morning up until bedtime should be precisely the same each day.
Mother Alison and father Brian have to cope up with their kids suffering from FASD every day, and they now understand the adverse effects alcohol can cause during pregnancy. "Drinking alcohol while pregnant is like playing Russian roulette with your baby's life," Alison tells BBC News NI. She emphasized, "Reece and Jordan are our whole worlds - they are amazing - but living with the effects that alcohol has had on them is a lot of work.”
Alison elaborated that the boys have a weak memory and become impulsive when faced with the slightest of changes. Since they have no real working memory, the kids often struggle with being forgetful. And, since they struggle to regulate their behaviour, they act on impulse.
A study funded by the Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health revealed that almost 60% of women in Ireland and 41% in the UK drank alcohol during pregnancy. The Department of Health has reported that drinking alcohol in small amounts during the initial stage, like before even knowing about your pregnancy, has a comparatively lower effect on the fetus.
After witnessing FASD so closely, Alison and Brian set up the group FASD NI to support other families dealing with the same effect.