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Completely Preventable: Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in ND

PHOTO: While completely preventable, it's estimated by the North Dakota Department of Health that as many as 1,100 children and adults in the state have a Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder. Photo credit: Lina Smith/Flickr.
PHOTO: While completely preventable, it's estimated by the North Dakota Department of Health that as many as 1,100 children and adults in the state have a Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder. Photo credit: Lina Smith/Flickr.
January 8, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. – 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 dozens in North Dakota, with a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

The effects of maternal alcohol use can include abnormal facial features, growth deficiencies and learning and behavior problems from permanent brain damage.

Larry Burd, director of the North Dakota Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Center, says there are other serious risks as well.

"Alcohol use during pregnancy increases the number of miscarriages,” he points out. “It increases by about fourfold the number of still births.

“It's a potent risk factor for infant mortality in the first year of life from infectious illness, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and birth defects."

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 Burd says there are also those mothers-to-be who struggle with addiction.

"And that's an area of considerable emphasis here in North Dakota,” Burd stresses. “We're really working hard to try to identify these women and figure out steps to help them quit drinking."


John Michaelson, Public News Service - ND