DrinkWise Launches FASD Awareness Day Campaign

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Hayley Willis and Fiona Falkiner with their sons, Spencer and Hunter

DrinkWise and doctors have joined forces to urge women to abstain from alcohol when planning a pregnancy, while pregnant and breastfeeding.

A new DrinkWise study has found that 82% of Australian women aged 18-44 think no amount of alcohol should be consumed during pregnancy, significantly more than in previous years (76% in 2019)* but also points out that more education is needed.

For women planning a pregnancy, who are pregnant or breastfeeding and who thought it was not okay to drink alcohol during pregnancy, the top two reasons cited were because it might harm the baby and because prevention is better than cure.*

Obstetrician Dr. Vicki Carson, who has seen firsthand the devastating effects of alcohol on newborns, lends her voice to raise awareness of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) as she approaches International FASD Awareness Day on September 9.

Dr Carson thinks all Australians should know that there is no proven safe amount of alcohol that can be consumed when planning a baby, during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.

“FASD is a 100% preventable disease that can cause irreparable harm. Prenatal alcohol exposure can reduce fetal brain size and weight. It can also directly damage regions of a baby’s brain that are essential for learning, memory, behavior, language and decision-making,” Dr. Carson said.

“We know the importance of education and the essential role that doctors and obstetricians play, which is why I encourage all my colleagues to remind their pregnant patients that it is best to avoid alcohol completely. .”

Dr. Carson said it’s heartbreaking to see families whose children have been diagnosed with FASD.

“When I see a couple who already has a child with FASD, the most common reason is that they didn’t know about avoiding or abstaining from drinking alcohol during pregnancy. And that’s just a reminder of the importance of this campaign. It’s not just an issue that women should know about, it’s equally important that their partners, friends and families know about it as well,” Dr Carson added.

DrinkWise CEO Simon Strahan acknowledged that while pregnancy abstinence rates are heading in the right direction, there is still a long way to go.

“It is great that more and more Australian women understand that they should not consume alcohol if they are planning a pregnancy, if they are pregnant or breastfeeding, but it is essential that we continue with campaigns that can help spread this important health message.

“DrinkWise is committed to educating the community that FASD is 100% preventable, to help care for our next generation of children,” Strahan said.

Media personality Hayley Willis and her fiancée, presenter and model Fiona Falkiner, have teamed up with DrinkWise to encourage women to avoid alcohol when planning a pregnancy, while pregnant and breastfeeding. The partnership comes just weeks after the couple announced the birth of their second son, Spencer.

Hayley underwent IVF to get pregnant, announcing Spencer’s safe arrival in August, which came three weeks before her due date. They already have a one-year-old son, Hunter, carried by Fiona. Fiona abstained from alcohol during her conception and her pregnancy journey with Hunter and Hayley did the same to ensure the safety of their second baby boy Spencer. Both believe giving up alcohol was an easy decision for their children’s health.

“For us, abstaining from alcohol while trying to get pregnant, during pregnancy and breastfeeding was a very simple choice to make. We wanted to give our babies the best start in life, Falkiner said.

“We did the research and consulted with medical professionals, and it was clear – we shouldn’t be drinking,” Willis added.

“We abstained throughout our pregnancies and given all the beautiful chaos of life with a new baby, we knew it was best for us to continue abstaining until we were done with it. ‘breastfeed,’ Falkiner said.

DrinkWise research shows that 49% of partners said they would likely give up alcohol to support their partner if they were planning a pregnancy, were pregnant or breastfeeding. *

“I thought it was beneficial for me to support Hayley by abstaining from alcohol during her pregnancy and now while breastfeeding. I just want to give her all the support she needs, and that is best for our children,” Falkiner said.

Fiona’s abstinence from alcohol has given Hayley the extra support she needs.

“It’s been incredibly encouraging to see more partners helping women abstain from alcohol on their pregnancy journey because you really need that support around you. It’s been a tough journey, but I’m so proud to say that I gave my children the best start in life by abstaining from alcohol during pregnancy,” Willis said of her pregnancy.

*Source: DrinkWise Alcohol and Pregnancy Study 2022

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