It can be debilitating, often causing lifelong mental and physical challenges, learning disabilities and behavioural problems.
Its victims are over-represented in the justice and prison systems, often due to impaired impulse control.
In Saskatchewan, three babies are born with it every week.
And the greatest tragedy of all is that it is 100 per cent preventable.
Next Tuesday, September 9, is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Day. On that day, Yorkton will join 40 other Saskatchewan communities to raise awareness of this disability, which is the result of mothers ingesting alcohol during pregnancy.
At the Yorkton liquor store, volunteers from KidsFirst sporting black “FASD: Let’s talk about it” t-shirts will serve mocktails (alcohol-free beverages) and hand out literature.
Maureen Dray, a FASD prevention coordinator with the Saskatchewan Prevention Institute (SPI) said it is exceptionally important to raise awareness because there is a lot of confusing information floating around such as there are some drinks that are safer than others and small amounts won’t hurt.
The fact of the matter is there is only one way to be certain and that is to abstain from imbibing for the full nine months of pregnancy. And, since 50 per cent of North American pregnancies are unplanned leaving many pregnancies undetected while women continue to drink, SPI encourages sexually active women to consider birth control.
The Institute also provided the following facts:
Alcohol crosses the placenta, cannot be processed as effectively by a baby as its mother and stays in the baby’s system longer.
Alcohol is a teratogen, like rubella, Thalidomide and lead and can cause birth defects.
There is no scientific evidence that any amount of alcohol is “safe” for a developing fetus.
There is no safe type of beverage; alcohol is alcohol whether in beer, wine or spirits.
There is no safe time to drink during pregnancy because organs develop at different times and the brain develops throughout the nine months gestation.
September 9 was chosen in 1999 for FASD awareness by a group of frustrated parents raising FASD children who liked the symbolism of the ninth minute of the ninth hour of the ninth day of the ninth month as a reminder to keep pregnancy alcohol-free.
The City of Yorkton has not officially proclaimed September 9 FASD Day, but Mayor Bob Maloney said he would be amenable.
“If approached I don’t see why we wouldn’t,” he said. “It’s a really great cause and there’s a lot more children who suffer than people suspect.”