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Message on Drinking When Pregnant is Clear: Zero for Nine

PHOTO: The consumption of alcohol during pregnancy is one of the leading preventable causes of birth defects and childhood disabilities. Photo credit: Phalinn Ooi/Flickr.
PHOTO: The consumption of alcohol during pregnancy is one of the leading preventable causes of birth defects and childhood disabilities. Photo credit: Phalinn Ooi/Flickr.
January 8, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa – It is completely preventable, but based on historic rates, there will be tens of thousands of babies born in the United States this year, including hundreds in Iowa, with a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

The severity of the health issues related to maternal alcohol use depends on the timing and frequency of consumption, which should be not a single drop, says Stephanie Trusty, a nurse clinician with the Iowa Department of Public Health.

"Research has shown that of all the substances of abuse, including cocaine, heroin and marijuana, alcohol produces by far the most serious neuro-behavior effects in the fetus and I think that's under recognized by the public," she stresses.

The effects can include abnormal facial features, growth deficiencies and permanent brain damage.

According to estimates from the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, the disorder affects some 40,000 infants each year.

Some cases happen when women drink before they realize they've become pregnant, while others believe it won't harm their babies.

Then there are those mothers-to-be who struggle with addiction, and Trusty notes that alcohol abuse is a serious issue locally.

"According to the 2012 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, which is a survey that's done in Iowa, 21.7 percent of adults in Iowa reported that they had done binge drinking, which is significantly higher than the national rate of 16.9 percent," she points out.



John Michaelson, Public News Service - IA