Healthy Living in the North

It takes a community: September 9th is FASD awareness day

This blog was co-authored by Amy Da Costa (Regional Nursing Lead, Injury Prevention) and Stacie Weich (Regional Program Lead, Mental Wellness and Prevention of Substance Harms)

Communities have the opportunity and power to contribute to FASD prevention.

Fall is a time of transition and reflection. September and October in particular offer opportunities to reflect on healthy beginnings, with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) awareness day taking place today on September 9th and Breastfeeding Week coming up in early October. In a recent blog post, I encouraged readers to think about what they could do to grow breastfeeding-friendly communities. Similarly, we all have a role to play in supporting healthy pregnancies.

Years ago, I worked with a group to organize a “community baby shower” for FASD awareness day. The group decided on the slogan, “Support our ladies, protect our babies: alcohol-free pregnancy”. Their words emphasize that individuals, families, and communities all have the opportunity and power to contribute to FASD prevention and to support healthy pregnancies more generally.

Health occurs in communities, in the contexts in which people find themselves. How can these contexts become even more supportive of health? What can communities do to help to prevent FASD? I asked a few of my colleagues in Population Health to share their thoughts on this matter:

  • Let’s build understanding, address myths, and provide clear information:

“FASD crosses all cultural, ethnic, socio-economic, and educational boundaries.”

“50% of pregnancies are unplanned. Women may use alcohol before they know they are pregnant.”

“In any community where there is pregnancy and where there is alcohol consumption, there is a risk of FASD.”

  • Let’s create safe spaces and strong support networks:

“How can our neighbourhood host welcoming spaces and social events where alcohol and other substances are not present?”

“How can our community foster social groups for expectant mothers?

“How can we remove barriers for community members to access food, shelter, and supports for mental and emotional health?”

  • Let’s talk … and listen:

“Let’s assume that all women are doing the best they can today to care for themselves and their growing babies. By setting the stage for open, honest, and judgement-free conversations, we can truly understand what women need from us as partners, friends, communities, and health workers.”

“How can we choose language that supports wellness and decreases stigma around FASD? For examples, see Language Guide: Promoting dignity for those impacted by FASD.”

“How do we open the door to important conversations?”

There’s certainly a lot to think about here! Even a small change can have a big impact. What is one step that our community could take to help prevent FASD?

Learn more about FASD:

More from Northern Health:

Lise Luppens

About Lise Luppens

Lise started her career as a dietitian with Northern Health in 2004 when she moved to Terrace "for a year." More than 10 years later, she is now part of the regional population health registered dietitian team and she continues to love living, working and playing in B.C.'s northwest. Lise enjoys playing outside with her husband and friends and you might find her skiing, biking or kiting. She’s passionate about local food, keeps a garden, enjoys local community-supported agriculture (CSA) and farmers market goodies, and carries out food preservation projects.


Tales from the Man Cave: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and male responsibility

20130912talesfromthemancaveThis is a difficult subject to broach as a man – not from the point of view that men don’t carry babies in their wombs, but from the point of view presented in the literature, which is, of course, almost exclusively aimed at women. This may overlook the fact that men suffer as much from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) as females do…so in that sense, it really is a male problem too.

So what is the role of the male partner in this equation? How can we help?

Let’s start by looking at some existing information on the subject. The Public Health Agency of Canada offers some solid broad info on FASD in this article. From reading this link, we can see that there no known safe level of alcohol use during pregnancy and I quote from the link page:

Canada’s new Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines advise that there is no safe amount, and no safe time, to drink alcohol during pregnancy.

It seems like common sense that if a family is being planned that the man take full responsibility to ensure not only that he has the healthiest sperm possible but also to support his partner in reducing alcohol intake during that time by doing so himself. Having a family is a partnership which requires major commitment from both male and female and if a successful pregnancy ensues, also a continued commitment by the male partner to support and role model healthy eating and living which includes reducing alcohol intake in support.

The presence of a child in one’s life is a great blessing as well as a major responsibility. Parenting is both very challenging and rewarding and requires from us men a commitment for life.

That support starts best before conception, as two people make their plans to ensure a healthy relationship, secure a financial environment, and in the case of FASD, have the commitment to ensure as safe a pregnancy as possible by adhering to the advice that there is “no safe amount, and no safe time to drink alcohol during pregnancy.”

More information
Alcohol and Pregnancy Planning from Healthy Families BC

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.