Leeds services join together to highlight the dangers of drinking during pregnancy

Stories on the dangers of drinking during pregnancy will be shared across social media today as part of a new Leeds campaign.

Monday, 13th September 2021, 6:18 am
Leeds services have joined together to highlight the dangers of drinking during pregnancy (file photo: PA Wire/Anthony Devlin)

Leeds City Council, the Leeds NHS Trusts, and the city’s alcohol and drug service Forward Leeds have teamed up to raise awareness on International Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness Day.

Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is the most common, non-genetic cause of learning disability in the UK. It affects millions of people and research suggests it may be more common than autism.

The aim of the campaign is to both raise awareness of the dangers of consuming alcohol during pregnancy and to let people know that support is available for families raising children with FASD in Leeds.

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Forward Leeds, the city’s alcohol and drug service, has a specialist midwife service that can provide support

Maria Adams, from Cross Gates, adopted children with FASD 10 years ago and was shocked to find a "lack of knowledge" about the condition among some healthcare professionals.

She said: "Living with FASD is hard as there is very little information given around this disorder, which is totally preventable.

"The brain in-womb doesn't connect the right way and so leaves the child with a permanent, incurable neurological disability, where they can’t learn easily, control emotions, and they get very angry and can be violent."

A recent study from Salford University found that 1.8 per cent of children may have FASD – almost twice as many as have autism - dispelling the myth that it is just children who are raised in poverty or with poor parenting that are impacted.

Although there’s no cure, early diagnosis can make all the difference, enabling families to access the right support and achieve the best outcomes for their child.

Councillor Salma Arif, Leeds City Council’s executive member for public health, said: “With Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder much more common in the UK than people think, it is vital we raise awareness of it and the fact that the safest approach is to not drink alcohol at all if you are pregnant.

"For parents-to-be who are worried about their alcohol use, Forward Leeds has a specialist midwife service that can provide support.”

As well as the stories and messages being shared on social media, Forward Leeds’ senior midwife Alex Whincup is giving an online Want to Know More About talk about FASD in collaboration with the Public Health Resource Centre in Leeds.

Although the talk is already sold out it will be recorded and made available through the Public Health Resource Centre after the date.

Families living with FASD can also access support from others who are going through similar experiences via the FASD Network, which runs face-to-face and social media-based peer support groups.

Maria added: “There is no cure and no medication or therapies to be offered once diagnosed. You have to seek help via alternative routes which is extremely difficult.

"FASD network UK has support groups which have been a great help and source of advice, however more is needed to help these children have a better start in life."

For parents-to-be who are worried about their alcohol use and would like support to manage their drinking, the drug and alcohol treatment service Forward Leeds offers a specialist midwife service. Pregnant women can self-refer or get referred by a health professional.

For more information about FASD visit the No Thanks, I’m Pregnant website.

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