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.

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Are you a SmartMom?

Becoming a “mama” was the best thing to ever happen to me! As a nurse working in public health, I thought I had all of the knowledge, tools, and skills I needed to be a “smart” mom. I honestly thought it was going to be easy! During my pregnancy, I chose not to attend traditional prenatal classes due to transportation issues. Instead, I sought pregnancy, breastfeeding, labour, and delivery information from a variety of other credible sources including books, videos, websites, and our birth doula. Although I felt prepared, I was lacking a stronger support system that I did not even realize I needed.

pregnant women holding cell phone

SmartMom is a free text-based service that guides soon-to-be mothers through every week of pregnancy. Texts are tailored to their due dates and information is from trusted health sources.

When I returned to work after my maternity leave, I learned about a new prenatal education program that was coming to the north: SmartMom. SmartMom is a prenatal education program that texts evidence-based pregnancy information to women via phone or computer. It is the first program of its kind in Canada! As soon as I learned about SmartMom, I realized that this program would have been so helpful for me and my spouse during my pregnancy!

As my own experience suggests, nowadays, women are choosing to get their prenatal information in a variety of unique ways above and beyond traditional prenatal classes. The texts from SmartMom are meant to complement the prenatal education women are already accessing in their communities through group prenatal classes, one-on-one sessions with a health care provider, or their own research of credible sources. The beautiful thing about SmartMom is that it delivers text messages tailored to a woman’s stage in pregnancy.

How it works

sample of text messages

SmartMom will text you information tailored to your due date via cell phone or computer. To enroll, text “SmartMom” to 12323 or visit www.smartmomcanada.ca

Women sign up to receive text messages with information that can be helpful when discussing concerns with their health care providers, as well as supporting them in making choices about their health. In addition to receiving supportive prenatal information, women also have the option of subscribing to supplemental messages, including topics of specific interest to them: alcohol use in pregnancy, nutrition and exercise, substance and tobacco use, exposure to violence, being an older mom, and information about labouring after a caesarean section. These supplemental streams of messaging can assist women in making choices specific to their health and their pregnancy. The ultimate goal of SmartMom is to have healthier mommies, babies, and families!

SmartMom is available now! There are three ways to sign up:
• Contact a health care provider for information
• Text “SmartMom” to 12323
• Visit www.smartmomcanada.ca

As I came to realize, becoming a”smart” mom is a learning process; it takes time to learn how to be the healthiest version of yourself for your children and your family. A program like SmartMom can really help a new mom increase her knowledge and prepare for the wonderful journey that lies ahead!

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The challenge of quitting smoking during pregnancy and staying quit after delivery

Woman smoking beside a field.

Avoiding tobacco use will improve the health of your whole family before, during and after pregnancy.

Want to improve your own health and protect your developing baby from the harmful effects of tobacco and tobacco smoke? Women and their partners who use tobacco during pregnancy are encouraged to quit!

Why quit?

Maternal smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke during pregnancy may increase the risk of miscarriage, preterm birth and early detachment of the placenta. Smoking is also linked to growth restriction during pregnancy and low birth weight. Although a smaller baby may mean an easier labour and delivery, low birth weight is a predictor of decreased newborn health and survival.

After a child is born, infants of women who smoke are three times more likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome. Children who are exposed to second-hand smoke have an increased risk of respiratory problems and increased severity of asthma.

When to quit?

Ideally, women and their partners should quit using tobacco prior to pregnancy but if not, then it is important to quit anytime during pregnancy. Every day is a good day to quit smoking!

Support to help you quit smoking and protect your family

Although tobacco dependence is a complex addiction with many factors that make it difficult to quit, many women have been able to quit during their pregnancy.

Women are aware that smoking is not good for their health or the health of their babies and so many are very motivated to quit. It’s sometimes difficult to quit during pregnancy because:

  • Pregnancy speeds up a woman’s metabolism and she may find that she is smoking even more to relieve her cravings.
  • Pregnancy is sometimes a stressful time.
  • A woman’s social network may use tobacco and she may feel left out.

Understanding these factors may help in the development of plan to quit smoking.

Many women wonder if they can use nicotine replacement therapy such as the nicotine patch, gum, lozenge or inhalers when they are pregnant. Opinions vary on the use of these products in pregnancy so women should discuss the use of these products with their physician or pharmacist. Intermittent dosing of nicotine replacement therapies such as lozenges, gum or inhaler are preferred over continuous dosing of the patch.

It is likely that nicotine replacement therapy is safer than cigarette smoking as the mother and baby are only exposed to nicotine and none of the other 8,000+ chemicals in cigarette smoke. If you use nicotine replacement therapy instead of smoking cigarettes, the mother and baby are not exposed to the carbon monoxide that reduces oxygen uptake and flow to the developing baby.

Many women are able to quit during their pregnancy and enjoy the positive health effects that come with quitting. It’s important to plan how to stay quit once the baby is delivered as relapse is common after the baby is born.

For information and free support to help you quit, visit QuitNow, call 1-877-455-2233, or ask your pharmacist about the BC Smoking Cessation Program. Do you or a loved one have a quit story? Share it for your chance to win a Fitbit!

Let’s raise children in tobacco free families!


This article was first published in the Summer 2016 issue of Healthier You magazine. Check out the full issue below!

 

Nancy Viney

About Nancy Viney

Nancy is a registered nurse working in Northern Health’s population health team. She often imagines a day when no one in northern British Columbia suffers from the harmful effects of tobacco. In her time off, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, especially her two little grandchildren! Nancy also enjoys quilting, knitting, crocheting and many other home spun crafts.

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