United Kingdom

Over a quarter of 18 to 25-year-olds are unaware that women should avoid alcohol in pregnancy

A quarter of adults aged between 18 and 25 are unaware that women should not drink alcohol during pregnancy, according to a survey of 2,000 Britons. 

A staggering 26 per cent admitted they did not know that official guidance states that a woman, if pregnant, should avoid alcohol entirely.   

Just 17 per cent of the young adults correctly identified alcohol exposure in utero as causing more long-term harm to a baby than other substances such as heroin.  

 Only 26 per cent of 18-25 year-olds were aware that official guidance states that a woman, if pregnant, should avoid alcohol entirely (stock)

Almost half (49 per cent) of 18-25 year-olds polled said they get information on alcohol in pregnancy from social media while four in ten discussed it with a teacher.  

The research was carried out by the National Organisation for FASD (Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders). 

Sandra Butcher, chief executive of the British arm of the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS-UK), said: 'Information is power. It is deeply concerning that so few young people are aware of the dangers.

Almost half (49 per cent) of 18-25 year-olds polled said they get information on alcohol in pregnancy from social media while four in ten discussed it with a teacher (stock)

Pregnant women should avoid alcohol or risk harming their child

Pregnant women shouldn't drink alcoholic drinks because the chemical can pass into their baby's body.

The liver is one of the last organs to finish growing in the womb, so babies exposed to alcohol may not have any natural defences against its harms – in grown people the liver filters it to reduce damage.

Drinking during the first trimester can raise the risk of miscarriage, premature birth, or a low birth weight.

Whereas drinking later in the pregnancy increases the chance of the baby being born with health problems. 

Babies of mothers who drank regularly in pregnancy may develop a serious condition called foetal alcohol syndrome.

This can cause physical deformities (notably the eyes can be set far apart, and a large forehead and thin upper lip can develop) as well as disability.

Babies with severe foetal alcohol syndrome may have learning difficulties, behaviour problems or even develop cerebral palsy.

Around 6,000 to 7,000 babies are thought to be born in the UK every year with foetal alcohol syndrome, according to the charity Mencap. 

Source: NHS 

'Alcohol exposure in pregnancy risks more life-long impact on a developing brain and body than heroin. FASD is preventable - no alcohol, no risk.'

However, the study did find that 22 per cent could identify that the acronym FASD stands for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

FASD is the lifelong, brain-based condition that can result from exposure to alcohol in the womb.

This can cause physical deformities (notably the eyes can be set far apart, and a large forehead and thin upper lip can develop) as well as disability. 

Around 6,000 to 7,000 babies are thought to be born in the UK every year with foetal alcohol syndrome, according to the charity Mencap.

Babies with severe foetal alcohol syndrome may have learning difficulties, behaviour problems or even develop cerebral palsy. 

Studies have shown that FASD is more prevalent than autism but it is widely misdiagnosed or undiagnosed. 

Health and social care lecturer Jo Buckard, an expert in FASD, said: 'There's been progress but no one should rest easy with these figures.

'If one-quarter of those in childbearing years hasn't got the message yet, that could lead to a massive risk of FASD.

'Add to that the fact that during this lockdown it's harder to get access to contraceptives and pregnancy tests, it's a perfect storm for a possible future upsurge in FASD.'

Sandra Butcher, chief executive, NOFAS-UK, added: 'We hope schools and community groups will get behind this initiative.

'Young people need to know why this matters.

'Adults have missed the mark on this for so long, we believe once they have the facts the next generation will be the one to stop this preventable, hidden epidemic.'

Fears of a spike in babies born with alcohol harm due to coronavirus lockdown binge drinking 

Women are being urged to curb their drinking over fears it could lead to a spike in alcohol harm in babies conceived during the coronavirus pandemic.

A survey conducted by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education recently found Australians were drinking 70 per cent more during isolation.

University of Sydney's Professor Elizabeth Elliott said this, coupled with the increased time partners were spending together, meant there was an increased risk of pregnancy and alcohol harm. 

Professor Elliott said it was a myth that only high rates of drinking could cause problems, such as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder.

Prenatal exposure to alcohol can case neurodevelopmental issues in children that can affect their ability to think, learn, focus their attention and control their behaviour and emotions.

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