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Eurocare Marks International ‘Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders' (FASD) Awareness Day

Drinking alcohol in pregnancy remains a significant public health issue in Europe. A substantial number of women across the EU, continue to drink during pregnancy–ranging from 25% in Spain to 35%-50% in the Netherlands and even higher rates in the UK or Ireland.

Prenatal exposure to alcohol is a leading preventable cause of birth defects an developmental disorders, and the only one which is 100% preventable. Unfortunately, many women are not aware that, throughout the pregnancy, even at low levels of exposure, alcohol interferes with the normal development and can seriously damage the unborn child.

The umbrella term Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD), describes the range of effects that can occur in an individual whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. These can include physical, mental, behavioural and or learning disabilities with possible lifelong implications. Individuals born with FASD often fail in the education system, and come into difficulties with criminal justice system.

FASD is believed to affect about 1% of people in the EU27, which amounts to nearly 5 million people.

Dr Kieran O'Malley, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Belfast Trust, Northern Ireland, leading expert on FASD said: “Prenatal exposure to alcohol is the leading cause of preventable birth defects in the western world. Evidence shows that there are no safe limits and therefore, abstinence is recommended throughout pregnancy.”

Mariann Skar, Secretary General of Eurocare, said: “We call upon governments in Member States for more effective prevention, such as issuing clear guidelines of abstinence for pregnancy, and introducing health warning labels on alcoholic beverages. We also call for comprehensive training of professionals who have a key role to play in the prevention and reduction of alcohol related harm.”

International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Awareness Day is marked every year on 9th September, symbolising nine months of pregnancy, when women should abstain from alcohol to protect their unborn child.
Notes to the Editors:

1. EUROCARE, the European Alcohol Policy Alliance, is an alliance of 45 voluntary and non-governmental organisations from all over Europe dedicated to promote the prevention and reduction of alcohol related harm in Europe.

2. Media contacts: Emilie Rapley, Policy and Public Affairs Officer, Tel: + 32 2 736 05 72

The Eurocare Campaign to Raise Awareness of the Dangers of Drinking During Pregnancy is supported by the following NGOs:

European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) EPHA's mission is to promote and protect the health of all people living in Europe and to advocate for greater participation of citizens in health-related policy making at the European level.

Standing Committee of European Doctors (CPME) CPME aims to promote the highest standards of medical training and medical practice in order to achieve the highest quality of health care for all citizens of Europe.

European Midwives Association (EMA) EMA aims to represent all midwives in the EU and the wider European area, to maintain, and where possible, to improve the health and welfare of women and their families.

Mental Health Europe (MHE) MHE is committed to the promotion of positive mental health and well-being, the prevention of mental disorders, the improvement of care, advocacy for social inclusion and the protection of the human rights of (ex)users of mental health services and their families and carers.

Confederation of Family Organisations in the European Union (Coface) COFACE is a pluralistic organisation, at the heart of civil society, which aims at promoting family policy, solidarity between generations and the interests of children within the European Union.

Eurochild is an international network of organisations and individuals working in and across Europe to improve the quality of life of children and young people. Its work is underpinned by the principles enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.