Glasgow & West Scotland

New campaign urges women to avoid alcohol in pregnancy

Pregnant woman drinking wine Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Women are being advised to avoid drinking any alcohol while they are pregnant

A new hard-hitting health campaign will urge women to avoid drinking any alcohol during pregnancy.

Mothers-to-be will be warned that their unborn child could be at risk of irreversible brain damage if they choose to drink alcohol.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) hopes to "set the record straight" after years of "mixed messages".

They estimate that around 500 babies are born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) every year in Scotland.

FASD is often associated with facial features such as small eyelid openings, short upturned noses and small heads.

But it can also affect the heart, cause varying degrees of learning disabilities and it can cause permanent damage to a baby's brain.

The nine-month information campaign is called "No alcohol, no alcohol harm" and it coincides with International FASD Awareness Day.

It is not a new message - but Dr Linda de Caestecker, NHSGGC's director of public health - hopes it will be unambiguous.

"Women get their information from various places, not just their doctor or midwife," she said.

"They read books and magazines, they scour the internet, chat to their mum and other friends who have had a baby before. And this means they often get mixed messages.

"The aim of this campaign is to set the record straight. NHSGGC will do this even when the truth is less comfortable and less welcome than the popular myths to which our society has clung for too long.

"We need to be clear that FASD is a risk, not a certainty. If you had the odd drink before you know you were pregnant the risk will be small.

"But it's also just kidding yourself on to believe drinking wine with dinner most nights doesn't really count.

"The message is that the only way to guarantee your baby not being exposed to alcohol harm is to avoid alcohol completely."

Image copyright Eraxion
Image caption Health experts warn that pregnant women who drink alcohol are putting their unborn children at risk

Posters and additional information will be available in ante-natal clinics as part of the campaign and there will be extra training for midwives.

The health board will also promote the message on social media.

Dr de Caestecker added: "Fetal alcohol harm is the single biggest and 100% preventable cause of learning disabilities and behavioural difficulties among children, young people and adults in the UK.

"There are two ways to avoid alcohol harm to your baby: don't drink while pregnant or if you're not ready to give up alcohol, make sure you don't get pregnant and are using an effective form of contraception.

"By weakening the messages about drinking in pregnancy in order not to alarm or upset anyone, we are in fact being disrespectful to prospective mothers and fathers as they are entitled to understand the risks involved in alcohol use during pregnancy.

"This is why we offer them the best and most up-to-date information available. No alcohol, no alcohol harm."

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