DrinkWise launches FASD Awareness Day campaign

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

DrinkWise and medical practitioners have joined forces to urge women to abstain from alcohol when planning a pregnancy, during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

New DrinkWise research revealed that 82% of Australian women aged 18-44 believe no amount of alcohol should be consumed during pregnancy, which is significantly more than previous years (76% in 2019) * but also highlights that more education is needed.

For women planning a pregnancy, pregnant, or breastfeeding who thought that it was not okay to drink alcohol while pregnant, the top two reasons cited were because it could harm the baby and because it’s better to be safe than sorry.*

Obstetrician Dr Vicki Carson, who has seen the devastating effects of alcohol on new-born babies first-hand, is lending her voice to raise awareness about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) in the lead up to International FASD Awareness Day on 9 September.

Dr Carson believes all Australians need to know there’s no proven safe amount of alcohol which can be consumed while planning for a baby, during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.

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

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

Dr Carson said it’s heart-breaking seeing families whose children have been diagnosed with FASD.

“When I see a couple who already have one child affected by FASD, the most common reason is that they didn’t know to avoid or abstain from alcohol during pregnancy. And that’s just a reminder how important this campaign is. This isn’t just an issue that women should know about, it is just as important that their partners, friends and families know about it too,” Dr Carson added.

DrinkWise CEO Simon Strahan acknowledged that while rates of abstinence in pregnancy were going in the right direction there is a lot more to be done.

“It’s great that more and more Australian women are understanding that they shouldn’t be consuming alcohol if they are planning a pregnancy, pregnant or breastfeeding, but it is critical that we continue campaigns that can help deliver this important health message.

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

Media personality Hayley Willis and her fiancée, presenter and model Fiona Falkiner, have partnered with DrinkWise to urge women to avoid alcohol when planning a pregnancy, during pregnancy and breastfeeding. The partnership comes mere weeks after the couple announced the birth of their second son, Spencer.

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

“For us, abstaining from alcohol when trying to fall pregnant, when pregnant and breastfeeding was a really simple choice to make. We wanted to give our bubby’s the best start to life, said Falkiner.

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

“We abstained all the way through our pregnancies and considering all the lovely chaos of life with a new baby, we knew it was best for us to continue to abstain until we finished breastfeeding,” said Falkiner.

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

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

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

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

* Source: DrinkWise Alcohol and Pregnancy Study 2022

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