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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is an Invisible Disability

The warning signs are out there, yet mothers continue to drink while pregnant. Why? Parents who drink alcohol exponentially increase the chance of their baby being born with birth defects. If we added up all the cases of children being born each year with Spina Bifida, Down Syndrome, and Muscular Dystrophy it would still be less than FASD cases, according to the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder occurs when pregnant women consume alcohol and there are 40,000 cases of this every year in the United States. Despite awareness groups and doctors plastering the TV with their concerns, the problem lingers on. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is an invisible disability.

According to the Center for Disease Control, there is not a safe amount of alcohol of any kind to consume while one is pregnant. The Chicago Tribune interviewed Edward Riley, of San Diego State University, one of the nation's leading researchers on FASD: "There's a lot of stigma associated with alcohol abuse and this spills over into FASD, for biological parents, it is difficult ... it means they have to be willing to admit that they were a contributor. And for adoptive parents, it means that the perfect family they were looking for might not become a reality". The common belief with a certain number of people is that if the child does not have facial abnormalities then it does not have FASD; sadly, this is a common misconception because the range of problems can be behavioral only. Kathy Mitchell, of the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS) states that there are very few medical schools teaching their students how to spot the whole spectrum of issues that can be associated with FASD. "Unless a child has profound features or adopted from Russia, the possibility of FASD is never even thought of," claims Mitchell.

Today, 09/09/09, is the International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Awareness Day, where all across the world at 9:09 am bells will be rung to help raise awareness of the disorder. When FASD occurs more than: autism, Down Syndrome, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, and HIV, it is hard to believe that there is not more awareness out there. Where are the celebrities? Where are the ribbon bumper stickers that we see for just about every other cause? The time has come to stop sweeping this disorder under the rug; it's not fair to the future born that parents can jeopardize their futures by drinking alcohol. Perhaps there should be severe penalties for women who drink during their pregnancies. Driving while intoxicated is illegal, why shouldn't gestating while intoxicated be too?

"If you're pregnant don't drink. If you drink don't get pregnant."

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