During September, the NHS in Kent and Medway is supporting the #BeAware campaign from the Kent-based charity FASD Awareness.
September is officially recognised as FASD Awareness Month, as an extension of International FASD Awareness Day, held on 9 September every year.
FASD means lifelong impairments that can result from brain damage caused by a baby being exposed to alcohol before birth. These impairments can show themselves in a variety of ways as the child gets older, including through speech and language, memory, learning and behaviour issues.
During the month, FASD Awareness is rolling out a series of initiatives, assets and tools to help educate people about this condition.
Avoiding alcohol while pregnant
The main way to prevent it is for women not to drink alcohol while they are pregnant.
Becky Collins, Head of Midwifery at NHS Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We support the charity’s drive to educate people, particularly pregnant women and those planning a pregnancy, about the causes and effects of FASD.
“NHS advice continues to be that the safest approach - to keep risks to an unborn baby to a minimum - is to not drink alcohol at all during pregnancy. The more you drink, the greater the risk of causing long-term harm to your baby.”
If you need support to reduce your drinking, there are services available to help. Details of local services are available on Bump, Birth and Beyond, the website for maternity services in Kent and Medway.
Living with FASD
Dr Soji Abiona, Consultant Paediatrician and Trustee of FASD Awareness, said: “FASD is probably the most common preventable cause of non-genetic learning disability.
“The characteristics of FASD cannot be cured. The needs of each individual require specialist assessment and lifelong support. Timely diagnosis and support can, and has been shown to, lead to positive and more fulfilled lives.”
Patients with FASD may be living with complex, physical, mental, psychological and emotional difficulties. As society demands more of them, they are less able to manage.
Supporting children and families
The NHS across Kent and Medway is working hard to train health professionals to identify and support those with FASD, to improve diagnosis rates and put enhanced support in place for children and their families.
To coincide with the national awareness campaign, FASD Awareness is launching a new film, which you can watch here.
Andrew Keeping, Chief Executive of FASD Awareness, said: “We know people are drinking more as a result of the recent national lockdowns due to Covid-19 and it is predicted there may be more babies than ever born with FASD in the coming year. Our charity wants reach out to as many families and individuals living with FASD as we can.“