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Living with FASD

Two weeks ago, most Australian states and territories with New Zealand made a commitment to support a highly visible, pregnancy warning label on alcoholic beverages. This is the right decision and a long time coming. Alcohol is such an accepted part of our culture and way of life in Australia and we can all easily forget how addictive it is, the effects it has on our brains, livers, and other parts of our lives.

If we stop to think about the effect of alcohol, the reason we feel like a glass of wine or beer at the end of the day, then we can see how it influences us.

Then, if we stop to think about the same effect on a growing, developing bub inside a mother’s body, it is scary. That one glass of wine or beer goes straight to our head to relax, destress, etc and our brains, livers, bodies are fully grown and functioning – that little bub’s isn’t. They don’t get a choice. The impact is enormous.

Living with a child with FASD is hard, but living as a child and then adult growing up with FASD is even harder. Alcohol on a growing embryo impacts the development and growth of that embryo causing permanent brain damage, altered hormone and chemical balances, impacts on other organs and growth. Fostering Hope works with the Russell Family Fetal Alcohol Disorders Association (RRFADA) to host a support group for parents and carers of children growing up with FASD. We see women who would give anything to have not caused their child’s disability and we see children struggling through childcare and school to engage with education and heartbreakingly make social connections due to their behaviours, leading to further anti-social behaviour and outcomes. We desperately need more diagnosis and discussion about FASD from the medical profession so, as parents and carers, we can educate our childcare, school, and social communities about what is going on for our child and that it isn’t their fault.

And, it is 100 per cent preventable.

It would be considered child abuse to give a 6 month old a glass of wine, even a two year old, even an eight year old, yet for some reason, for years it was accepted (even encouraged) to have a drink while pregnant.

None of these words are intended to cast judgement – especially when the medical professional did not advise against drinking. These words are to encourage us going forward to heed the new warnings, think about the growing bub and giving it the best shot in life from the beginning.

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