Putting the blame on our drinking culture

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is a term used to describe the range of conditions that can occur from alcohol exposure during pregnancy.

In a culture that often encourages people to drink their body weight in booze, it’s more important than ever to remember that alcohol and pregnancy don’t mix.

Drinking alcohol while pregnant, even in small doses, increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth or Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, which is a term used to describe the range of conditions that can affect newborn babies due to alcohol exposure during pregnancy.

People living with FASD can experience complex physical, behavioural, learning and intellectual difficulties that will last a lifetime.

A seminar run by neuropsychologist and clinical director of the FASD Centre Aotearoa, Dr Valerie McGinn, will look to lead judgement away from women and address the role played by New Zealand’s drinking culture.

“As a practice, we don’t blame women at all, we blame our society,” says Valerie. “Alcohol is life, and it’s not like women are doing anything different to anyone else.”

Valerie has more than 20 years’ experience in working with children and adolescents with brain injuries and neurodisabilities.

She says around 60 per cent of pregnancies are unplanned and 80 per cent of women drink, so most women are drinking during pregnancy and not realising they’re pregnant.

“We just need to acknowledge that there isn’t as much knowledge and resources about the effects of drinking alcohol while pregnant.

“We can’t do anything about what has happened, but we can do a lot about what’s going to happen.”

The seminar will discuss what FASD is, how alcohol damages development, how children are diagnosed and what can be done to help. There will also be a chance to gather in groups and share each other’s personal stories.

“When you have a child with FASD, you feel very alone because you may not know other people raising children with FASD,” says Valerie. “But there’s actually a lot. This is why it’s important to have open discussions and seminars like this.

“The seminar is for people who have perhaps Googled and looked up resources and think FASD might describe their child or the child they’re teaching.”

The FASD in our Neighbourhood seminar will be held on Friday, December 7 from 9.30am-3.30pm at Greerton Hall, 1247 Cameron Road.

Numbers are limited. Confirm your attendance by sending your name, contact details and whether you are a caregiver or other, before November 20, to Milli Lovell on: Milli.lovell@gmail.com or call: 021 527604.