No amount of alcohol is safe for a growing fetus—yet a 2003 survey found 1 in 10 Canadian women drank at least once during their pregnancy. Given the culture of alcohol that exists in Nova Scotia, we need to work extra-hard to promote alcohol-free pregnancies.

September 9 is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Awareness Day. FASD results from exposure to alcohol in the womb. It causes many challenges, which may include learning disorders, behavioural issues, speech and language delays, and more.

However, because it is a complicated issue, we all need to address the harms related to drinking during pregnancy.

If you are childbearing age and drink, consider birth control that reduces your risk of an unplanned pregnancy. The fetus is most at risk during the first three months of development, which means people may drink without knowing they are pregnant. Anyone planning to conceive should cut out alcohol completely.

If you are pregnant and cannot stop using alcohol, talk to your health care provider about how you can quit. Many people who use alcohol during pregnancy have a history of traumatic experiences like domestic violence or sexual assault. Getting support for those concerns may help you cope without alcohol.

Do you know someone who is pregnant and using alcohol? Offer support, not judgement. Encourage them to talk to a professional. Take a walk together or go out for lunch. Listen.

Finally, because FASD includes risk factors like poor prenatal care, inadequate nutrition, and social isolation, we need to address the root causes of alcohol use during pregnancy. We need policies and social supports that give people who are pregnant the best possible environment in which to grow their children. This means looking at the social determinants of health and improving them for all our populations, especially those at risk of poor outcomes in pregnancy.

Let’s make Nova Scotia a culture of alcohol-free pregnancy!

For more information, talk to your health care provider, Mental Health and Addictions, or us, your local member centre of Sexual Health Nova Scotia.

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