The July 2012 RFFADA newsletter has been released. Below you will find a range of news and resources relating to FASD and the work of RFFADA.

Mental illness rife in Aussie jails Sydney Morning Herald, online, 5-Jul-12

The number of Australian prison entrants with a history of mental health problems is about 2.5 times higher than that of the general population, an Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) Report has found.

“I can’t serve you. You’re pregnant” Defining lower levels of alcohol consumption as one-to-four drinks per week … The National Organisation for Foetal Alcohol Syndromeand Related Disorders, …

Aaron’s ‘invisible disability’ An adoptive mother explains the difficulties of raising a child with FASD, especially those difficulties associated with maintaining a proper education.

Article, Stuff, July 14, 2012

Foetal alcohol kids ‘unable to access funds’ One in five students at Kimberley High School in Australia is assumed to have FASD. However, little can be done for the students without a proper diagnosis.

Article, The Australian, July 13, 2012

Everyone gets a say in the alcohol debate — except the foetus Discussion and controversy about prenatal alcohol exposure have risen recently after a waitress refused to serve wine to a pregnant woman. The article points out that the fetus is the only person without a say in the matter, and suggests that pregnant women refrain from drinking alcohol.

Article, WA Today, July 13, 2012

More education urged on pregnancy drinking risks The government of Australia is stepping up efforts to prevent FASD and help those living with the disorder by developing new policies and programs.

Article, ABC News, July 13, 2012

Alcohol ban on mums-to-be would leave a sour taste Bradley Woods, CEO of the Australian Hotels Association, favors of a policy that would prevent restaurant servers from serving alcohol to pregnant women.

Article, The West Australian, July 13, 2012

Eureka ranch becomes focus of Russian adoption outrage Russian government officials vow to shut down the Ranch for Kids, a residential program for children with disabilities, many with FASD adopted from Russia, after ranch owner Joyce Sterkel did not allow Russian officials to access the ranch.

Article, Missoulian, July 11, 2012

IS it safe to drink alcohol during pregnancy? A new Danish study reports drinking one to eight alcoholic drinks per week during pregnancy has no effect on children’s intelligence or activity levels. But this goes against everything we’ve heard about the dangers of drinking during pregnancy.

What about the surgeon general’s advisory? “No amount of alcohol consumption can be considered safe during pregnancy.” How are we to trust research if we receive conflicting messages like these?

Let’s start with the most important question: Is it safe to drink during pregnancy? The answer is no.

If you read carefully, even the Danish researchers come to this conclusion. Nevertheless, MSNBC reported, “A few drinks during pregnancy may be OK, study suggests.”

So is the Danish study wrong? The researchers studied pre-schoolers; 870 whose mothers drank during pregnancy and 758 whose mothers reported not drinking during pregnancy. They measured the children’s IQ and attention at the age of 5. Children exposed prenatally to one to eight drinks per week had the same IQ and attention levels as children with no exposure.

The reason the children did not appear to be harmed is because the children were too young to measure the full impact alcohol may have had on their brains.

A 5-year-old’s brain is not developed enough to perform complex tasks like following multiple instructions, writing a report or multiplying numbers. Decades of research on fetal alcohol syndrome confirms that alcohol has its greatest impact on complex brain functions. This is why children damaged by prenatal alcohol look deceptively good in the preschool years. The full impact of their exposure will not be evident until their adolescent years.

So, if the news reports have you believing one to eight drinks per week are safe, please consider the following facts based on 2,600 children who received a fetal alcohol syndrome diagnostic evaluation in the Washington State FAS Diagnostic & Prevention Network clinics:

  • One out of every seven children diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome (the most severe outcome caused by prenatal alcohol exposure) had a reported exposure of one to eight drinks per week while in utero.
  • Half of the children with fetal alcohol syndrome had normal developmental scores as pre-schoolers. But all had severe brain dysfunction confirmed by age 10.
  • Only 10 percent of the children with fetal alcohol syndrome had attention problems by age 5. Sixty percent had attention problems by the age of 10. (The Danish study only assessed attention at age 5.)
  • Only 30 percent of the children with fetal alcohol syndrome have an IQ below normal. But 100 percent had severe dysfunction in other areas like language, memory and activity level. (The Danish study did not assess these areas.)

Which children are most vulnerable? We do not know because risk is not just based on how much alcohol the mother drank. Twin studies confirm that genetics also plays a role. When genetically different twins are exposed to the same levels of alcohol, one twin can be born with fetal alcohol syndrome while the other twin develops normally.


We also know that metabolism plays a part. Every person metabolizes alcohol differently, and a pregnant woman simply can’t know how “just one drink” might affect her developing fetus.

So, while the science may be complicated and studies sometimes yield conflicting messages, the message for women is simple: To have the healthiest baby possible, don’t drink alcohol when you’re trying to get pregnant and during pregnancy.

If you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant and you drink alcohol, you should stop. If you cannot stop drinking, please contact us. We are here to help you and your family.

Susan Astley is a University of Washington epidemiology and pediatrics professor and director of the Washington State FAS Diagnostic & Prevention Network. Therese Grant is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and director of the Fetal Alcohol and Drug Unit at the UW.

Please ask all your networks and contacts to send their own message to COAG, either email to me or upload to www.everyaustraliancounts.com.aufrom mid-July.

Drinking while pregnant? It’s not worth the risk While recent research may suggest that alcohol use duri
ng pregnancy is not harmful, the article author cautions pregnant women to continue to refrain from alcohol use.

Article, The Mirror, July 9, 2012

Should killer with fetal alcohol syndrome be spared? Marc Anthony Soliz, a young man convicted of murder, may be spared from the death sentence due to his FAS diagnosis. FASD experts including Dr. Natalie Novick Brown, Dr. Stephen Greenspan, Dr. Richard Adler, Billy Edwards and NOFAS’ Tom Donaldson weigh in on the case.

Article, Star-Telegram, July 7, 2012

A face forms in the womb: 3D animation uses real scans to show fetal features forming New 3D animation shows how a fetus’ face develops during pregnancy. All the facial features develop around the philtrum, the groove between the nose and the mouth. Babies with FAS have a smooth philtrum, which shows how prenatal alcohol exposure affects fetal development.

Article, Daily News, July 5, 2012

They didn’t know they were pregnant An Iowa woman who gave birth to a daughter she did not know she was pregnant with explains how she would have behaved differently if she had known she was pregnant. Most importantly, she claims she would have abstained from alcohol and smoking to protect her unborn child.

Article, CNN, July 5, 2012

Danish study doesn’t change the answer: Don’t drink while pregnant Dr. Susan Astley and Dr. Therese Grant of the University of Washington explain that the recent Danish study does not suggest that any amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy. The experts point out that most disabilities caused by alcohol show up in children after age five, which is the end of the study’s range.

Article, The Seattle Times, July 4, 2012

Despite Danish study, it’s not OK for pregnant women to drink The Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (MOFAS) responds to a Danish study that suggests that prenatal alcohol exposure is not harmful to the baby. MOFAS points out several glaring problems with the study, specifically that the study only involves children up to five years of age. Children continue to develop past the age of five, resulting in the discovery of alcohol-related disabilities later than age five.

Article, Star Tribune, July 4, 2012

Drinking for two: Time to lighten up a little on alcohol and pregnancy A mother of four defends the recent Danish study’s suggestion that minimal alcohol use during pregnancy is okay. She advises against heavy drinking and encourages pregnant women to use common sense when making any health decision, including alcohol use.

Article, Chicago Sun-Times, July 3, 2012