No Alcohol, No Risk

Helping to highlight the dangers of drinking whilst pregnant, these dolls represent the 30 or so babies each year who are born in Forth Valley affected by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) a condition which can result in learning difficulties, behavioural problems and birth defects.

The dolls were displayed at an event at Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert on 9th September organised by the Forth Valley Drug and Alcohol Partnership as part of an international effort to raise awareness of FASD. Amongst those attending was the Minister for Public Health, Michael Matheson MSP (pictured above).

A Flash Dance Mob comprising senior school pupils from across Forth Valley encouraged patients, visitors and staff to simply watch or take part. Also included was what’s become known as ‘a pregnant pause’ where pupils and Forth Valley staff stood silent for 9 minutes. The so-called ‘freeze’ is designed to drive home the message that alcohol and pregnancy do not mix. Staging the event on the ninth day of the ninth month also reminds people that stopping drinking for nine months will protect a baby from alcohol-related harm.

Valerie Arbuckle, Additional Support Midwifery Sister, NHS Forth Valley, said:

 This message is not only for women. Partner’s, family and friends also have an important role to play, in supporting women to have an alcohol-free pregnancy.”

Gillian Morton, General Manager for NHS Forth Valley’s Women, Children’s and Sexual Health Services added:

 We know that women who have an alcohol dependency or binge drinking pattern are more likely to have a child who is physically or mentally affected. As it’s not know what specific amount of alcohol is entirely safe in pregnancy, the general advice is to avoid alcohol when trying to conceive and for the duration of the pregnancy to reduce the potential risks to the unborn baby.”

NHS Forth Valley’s Director of Public Health, Dr Anne Maree Wallace, who chairs the Forth Valley Alcohol and Drug Partnership, said she was encouraged to see the message being championed by pupils from Forth Valley schools. She explained

 Everyone can play a constructive role in raising awareness and preventing foetal alcohol harm, and families can be particularly supportive. It is vital we reach prospective mothers and their partners earlier with factual information and practical guidance.”

Across Scotland as a whole, more than 10,000 children are estimated to be affected by FASD. They often show a variety of learning difficulties and behavioural problems and may be regarded as being wilful or undisciplined when in fact they have little control over their behaviour due to the damage to their brain and nervous system which has been caused by alcohol.