Alcohol harms unborn babies, health experts warn

Helen Christie with her children Mereana, 2, and Everlyse, 5 months.
Helen Christie with her children Mereana, 2, and Everlyse, 5 months.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is completely preventable – just don’t consume alcohol while pregnant.

That’s the message health providers wanted to get across this month.  Northland health promotion advisor Dave Hookway says FASD is a group of conditions that include physical disabilities, behavioural and learning difficulties.

“Effectively these are like a brain injury – they are lifelong and irreversible, and can affect a person in different ways, ranging from mild to severe.

“It’s not worth the risk, you want to have the healthiest baby. You don’t play the Russian roulette.”

“Just one drink of alcohol during pregnancy places the baby at risk of FASD.”

In New Zealand it is estimated that up to 3000 children are born yearly with the condition which can cost the government over $1 million per child in welfare, justice system and police intervention.

Helen Christie, 24, is mother to two-year-old Mereana and 5-month-old Everlyse. She says she was a heavy drinker before her first child, but once she found out she was pregnant she quit immediately.

“I just stopped straight away because I knew you shouldn’t drink when pregnant and there are no safe limits and I didn’t want to risk it.

“It was a pretty straightforward decision because I had a baby in my belly.”

Hookway says some of the symptoms include a lower IQ, difficulty learning consequences, and balance and coordination issues.

Far North parenting educator Tania Henderson says the harmful effects from mums drinking during pregnancy is commonplace in Northland.

“These are not kids who are born naughty… Because their brains are damaged, they often fail to understand the consequences of their actions. More often than not, this leads the young people into trouble at school and trouble with the law.”


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