FASD FAQs – The Basics
The time to stop drinking is when you are planning a pregnancy. Because you don’t know precisely when you might conceive, It’s best to avoid alcohol when you are sexually active and not using contraception. If you wait until you know you are pregnant, you may be risking damage to the embryo during the first trimester. That is when the cellular structure of the limbs and organs are being formed. As well, the neuropathways of the brain and the central nervous system (CNS) continue to develop throughout the nine months of pregnancy. This process does not stop after birth so it is wise to continue to avoid alcohol if you are breastfeeding.
MThe likelihood of prenatal alcohol exposure damage is slight on the occasion of alcohol use at the time of conception. The problem arises if there is alcohol present following conception. The safest way is avoiding alcohol as long as you are sexually active and not using contraception.
- Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) are caused by maternal drinking alcohol in pregnancy.
- No amount of alcohol and no time in pregnancy have been established as safe for the fetus.
- Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders are the biggest single cause of mental disabilities in most industrialized countries, and could be totally prevented if all women abstained from alcohol during pregnancy.
- Less obvious and seemingly milder fetal alcohol damage is sometimes called Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE). This term has fallen out of use and has been largely replaced by Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND), Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (pFAS) or Static Encephalopathy. These conditions can be equally damaging to babies but are rarely diagnosed. (To keep this simple, we’re going to call it all FASD.)
- Some experts estimate that about 1% of North Americans suffer from a fetal alcohol disorder – about four times as many people as those with AIDS/HIV. There are three to five times as many people with ARND as FAS. New research suggests that the incidence of FASD is closer to 2 – 5% in North America.
- Since 1973, the medical profession has known that alcohol in pregnancy impedes fetal brain development, affecting intelligence, learning skills and behaviour.
- Persons with FAS have distinctive physical appearance and lower IQs, but have lower crime and addiction rates than those with ARND as they get earlier diagnosis and can be better protected by society and their parents.
- Individuals with ARND may look normal and have seemingly normal intelligence, but their damaged brains can result in learning disabilities, impulsivity, lying, stealing, tantrums, violence and aggression, inability to predict consequences or learn from experience, lack of conscience, and being highly addictive.
- Most people with ARND look perfectly normal and are never diagnosed. Research indicates that a high percentage of homeless people, and at least 25% of juvenile and adult offenders suffer from undiagnosed FASD.
Of individuals with ARND between the ages of 12 and 51,
- 95% will have mental health problems;
- 68% will have “disrupted school experience”;
- 68% will experience trouble with the law;
- 55% will be confined in prison, drug or alcohol treatment
centre or mental institution;
- 52% will exhibit inappropriate sexual behavior
Of individuals with ARND between 21 and 51 :
- more than 50% of males and 70% of females will have alcohol and drug problems;
- 82% will not be able to live independently;
- 70% will have problems with employment
- Some researchers estimate that each individual with FASD costs society approximately $2 million in his or her lifetime, for health problems, special education, psychotherapy and counseling, welfare, crime, and the criminal justice system.
- During their lifetimes, the individuals with FASD now alive in Canada will cost the taxpayers about $600 billion, about the same as the current national debt. In the U.S., they will cost the taxpayers about $6 trillion.
So-called, full-blown Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is easily recognizable because of the typical facial dysmorphologies caused by the presence of alcohol in the womb during the first trimester while the limbs and organs are being formed. When there are only slight facial characteristics or other non-dominant physical abnormalities, another diagnosis is known as pFAS or Partial FAS.
However, researchers have estimated that 8 out of 10 individuals who are struggling with FASD will have ARND (Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder) and will often have the most difficult lives because they are unlikely to be diagnosed. They often appear normal and will usually have all the behavioural characteristics of a normal child and their disability may not be recognized until they enter school, if then.
Diagnosis is difficult because it generally requires a team of trained professionals and these teams are few and far between. Knowledge of the birth mother’s drinking during pregnancy is the usual starting point and this can be very difficult to determine when there is no history, especially if the mother is deceased or the child is adopted.
FASD Diagnostic clinics are needed desperately in order for birth, adoptive and foster families to understand what they are dealing with and to help them to allow their children to be the best they can be.
When Bonnie & Brian were looking for a symbol that would truly reflect the international need for a unifying emblem, they discovered that all those ribbon loops were already using every colour of the rainbow. So, inspired by the groundbreaking 1989 book, The Broken Cord, by Michael Dorris, they decided to reconnect the “broken cord”.
The FAS Knot symbolizes a loving community that works together to help eliminate Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). The broken cord may refer to the umbilical cord, the spinal cord, the nervous system, the cord between the generations, or the cable on an elevator. The cord is tied in a square wknot, sometimes called a reef knot, the favoured knot for reconnecting a broken line or cord. The knot is stronger than the cord itself, and cannot be broken or snapped.
By choosing a cord instead of a ribbon, we are separating ourselves from all the other campaigns. We are not just another cause trying to raise money — we represent those millions of individuals and their families who have gone unrecognized, unidentified, neglected here and throughout the world.
Take an 8 in. piece of 3/16” white cord and make a circle about the size of your thumb, then tie right over left and under; left over right and under. It looks like two loops intertwined. Volunteers around the world have used thinner cord, cedarbark, deer hide strips, even seal skin — the choice is up to you.
The circle symbolizes the womb, a baby’s head, the human brain, the earth. And we, a planet-size network of people who care about people living with FASD, are the knot that will make them whole. If women did not drink in pregnancy, FASD would be totally eliminated — let’s rename this little piece of cord “The FAS Not”!
Wear one today!
The FAS Knot was designed by Bonnie Buxton and Brian Philcox and is a trademark of FASworld Canada. we encourage groups support FASD to use it for promotion or fundraising — just let us know when you do so. Send your project information to email@example.com
The FAS Knot lapel pin was inspired by a design by BC artist Gail MacLanders. These pins have been used by support groups to raise funds and to honour benefactors The pins are available for $3.50 each for orders of 25 or more plus shipping from FASworld Canada, 250 Scarborough Golf Club Road, Toronto, ON M1J 3G8. Please order from firstname.lastname@example.org