The DrinkWise Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Awareness Program aims to create greater awareness among Australians that FASD is 100% preventable.
Each year, in addition to the year-round FASD awareness activities, DrinkWise works with experts from the medical industry and well-known parents and parents-to-be in the lead up to International FASD Awareness Day on 9 September. It’s a reminder to Australians about the importance of not drinking alcohol when planning a pregnancy or when pregnant – and that it’s safest not to drink alcohol when breastfeeding.
We recognise that rates of abstinence in pregnancy are going in the right direction but there’s still more work to be done and ongoing education is critical.
International FASD Day – Saturday 9 September 2023
Obstetrician Dr Vicki Carson and Australian Diamonds Netball star, nutritionist and mum of two little boys, Gretel Bueta are lending their voices to the 2023 DrinkWise FASD Awareness campaign. It’s a reminder to mums, mums-to-be and their support networks (partners, friends and family) that FASD is 100% preventable by abstaining from alcohol when pregnant or planning a pregnancy – and that it’s safest not to drink alcohol when breastfeeding.
|Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder or FASD is 100% preventable. This is why Obstetrician, Dr Vicki Carson is supporting the campaign to remind Australians about the importance of not drinking alcohol if planning a pregnancy, during pregnancy or when breastfeeding.||Australian Diamonds Netball star, nutritionist and mum of two little boys, Gretel Bueta knows that a healthy baby is never a given which is why she decided not to drink when planning her pregnancy, when pregnant or while breastfeeding.|
Obstetrician Dr Vicki Carson talks about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder or FASD is a permanent neurological condition.
“FASD is an umbrella term for the range of physical, cognitive, behavioural and neurodevelopmental abnormalities that can affect babies who are exposed to alcohol during pregnancy or breastfeeding. 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. The range and severity of FASD-related conditions differ from one person to the next and the symptoms are apparent to varying degrees throughout life.“FASD a lifelong condition but one that is 100% preventable. As an obstetrician, my advice is that there is no safe amount of alcohol to consume during pregnancy so it’s best to avoid alcohol completely when you’re planning a pregnancy, while you’re pregnant and while you’re breastfeeding. It really is the safest option for your baby.
“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 or they thought a little bit wouldn’t hurt. And that’s just a reminder of how important this campaign is.
“We do know the importance of education and the critical role doctors and obstetricians play, which is why I encourage all my colleagues to continue to remind their pregnant patients that it’s best to avoid alcohol altogether. I also encourage partners, friends and families to know about FASD too. This isn’t just an issue that women should know about. We all have a role to play in promoting healthy pregnancy choices,” said Dr Carson.
Dr Mark Wenitong is helping to raise awareness that FASD is not just an issue for women in general, but for everyone – men, partners, friends and family.
Past President and founder of the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association and past Aboriginal Public Health Medical Officer, Dr Mark Wenitong has worked for almost three decades to help improve the health and wellbeing of Indigenous Australians. He is lending his voice to highlight that ongoing education about FASD and the importance of not drinking alcohol when pregnant, when planning for a pregnancy and when breastfeeding is critical.
Data from the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health survey shows that 90% of mothers to Indigenous children aged 0–three years said they did not consume alcohol during their pregnancy*.
“It’s great that so many mothers to Indigenous children are reporting that they are staying away from alcohol when they are pregnant, but there is still a lot more to be done to increase awareness about FASD and the fact that any amount of alcohol will have an impact on the fetus, no matter what background you come from,” said Dr Wenitong.
“It’s really important to acknowledge that this is not just an issue for our mob or for women in general, but for everyone. For men, the best thing they can do to make sure their bub gets born healthy and lives a good long life is to provide an environment that’s caring and loving for the mum, which might mean they should also stop drinking as well for the duration of the pregnancy as a sign of support.”
13 YARN National Manager Aunty Marjorie Anderson is helping to raise awareness and understanding of FASD to reduce shame and stigma.
“Education and raising awareness and understanding of FASD and reducing stigma and shame is important. Our mob need to understand the risks of drinking alcohol during pregnancy, and where to go for support, so they can ask for help if they need it.”
“13YARN is a crisis support line for mob who are feeling overwhelmed or having difficulty coping. We are there to have a yarn in a culturally safe space about any needs, worries or concerns without judgement,” added Ms Anderson.
If you or someone you know is an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and are feeling overwhelmed or having difficulty coping, call 13YARN on 13 92 76 or visit 13yarn.org.au.
Australian Diamonds Netball star, nutritionist and mum of two little boys, Gretel Bueta made the important decision to not drink alcohol when she was planning her pregnancies, when pregnant and when breastfeeding.
Gretel and her husband Niko are parents to two boys, Bobby and Toby. Knowing that a healthy baby is never a given, Gretel and Niko wanted to make decisions that would give them the best chance to have healthy babies, which is why Gretel decided not to drink when planning her pregnancy, when pregnant or while breastfeeding.
“I think most people know to avoid alcohol when they are pregnant but maybe they’re not so aware of the specifics of FASD. With my background in nutrition and through consulting with doctors and doing the research, I knew you shouldn’t drink alcohol when trying to conceive, when pregnant and while breastfeeding.
“I wanted to give my babies the best possible start in life and me the best possible start to life as a mum. I knew not drinking alcohol through the entire pregnancy and breastfeeding journey is one thing I could do to give our baby every chance to thrive. Health is so important to me and that’s why I’m so happy to be working with DrinkWise to support this message to bring awareness about FASD and encourage other mums and mums-to-be to not drink alcohol when they are trying for a baby, when they’re pregnant or when they are breastfeeding.
“It’s important everyone knows about FASD, including friends and family who can support pregnant women to abstain from alcohol. I was lucky to be surrounded by such a supportive community – Niko, my family and my netball family. They say it takes a village to raise a child and I’m lucky I have a great village,” said Gretel.
Backed by Research
As an evidence-based organisation, DrinkWise relies on key independent research and clinical advice to underpin our campaigns and programs.
The Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol (‘the Guidelines’) from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) advise that to prevent harm from alcohol to their unborn child, women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy should not drink alcohol. For women who are breastfeeding, not drinking alcohol is safest for their baby.
DrinkWise commissioned new research in 2023 to understand attitudes and behaviours about abstaining from alcohol when planning a pregnancy, during a pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Some of the key new findings from the 2023 research include:
DrinkWise CEO Simon Strahan acknowledged that while rates of abstinence in pregnancy and attitudes towards avoiding alcohol in pregnancy were going in the right direction there is a lot more to be done to increase awareness.
“It’s great that more and more Australian women are understanding that they shouldn’t be consuming alcohol if they are planning a pregnancy or pregnant and that it’s safest not to drink alcohol when breastfeeding, but it is critical that we continue education campaigns that can help deliver this important health message. DrinkWise is committed to providing ongoing education and support to ensure that all Australians know that FASD is 100% preventable,” Mr Strahan said.
Ongoing education is critical.
Since the start of the FASD Awareness Program DrinkWise has partnered with medical experts and celebrity/influencers to develop tailored materials to better engage with audiences throughout Australia. Funding for these important educational materials has come from the Federal Government and DrinkWise contributors.
Extended versions of many of these videos have been produced for school programs, to educate students about FASD, peer influence and the importance of not drinking alcohol before they turn 18. Many of these resources, including the DrinkWise pregnancy and alcohol brochure and videos, are available for use in medical centres and for education programs (free of charge). If you’d like to use these resources in your programs please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Looking for more information
For more information about alcohol when planning a pregnancy, when pregnant or when breastfeeding please talk to your doctor, obstetrician or midwife, or visit:
- DrinkWise – Pregnant, planning a pregnancy or breastfeeding (webpage)
- DrinkWise – Alcohol and pregnancy (brochure)
- Your Fertility
- NOFASD Australia
- FASD Hub
- Telethon Kids Institute
- Australian Breastfeeding Association
*Source: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey 2018–19