Suicide prevention, screening resources needed for moms at risk for FASD kids: study


More needs to be done to improve mental health and suicide-prevention and screening resources for moms who give birth to children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, a University of Manitoba study has found.

Mothers who have FASD-affected children are at greater risk of suicide and attempted suicide, a new U of M research study has found.

Using anonymous health information, researchers traced the health system contacts of mothers who had given birth to children with diagnosed FASD between the years 1974 and 2013.

This group was compared with a group of about 2,100 mothers whose children did not have FASD, a neurodevelopmental disorder that can occur when a baby is exposed to alcohol in the womb.

It can have lifelong effects that include physical, mental, behavioural and learning disabilities.

Moms with kids who had FASD had higher rates of attempting and completing suicide, community health sciences PhD candidate Deepa Singal said in an interview with CBC.

Singal was the lead author of the study, one the U of M called the first of its kind in Canada.

About two per cent of these moms died by suicide, Singal said. That means the rate of their suicides is much higher than the Canadian average, based on figures the CBC sourced from the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Singal called the statistics “quite sombering” and added there are many misconceptions about FASD.

“Pregnant women don’t intentionally want to harm their unborn baby. They’re consuming alcohol to cope with their stressful life circumstances … and these are the types of issues we need to address,” she said.

The affected mothers also saw higher rates of “social complexities” such as poverty, single parenthood, mental disorders and alcohol use that elevated their risk for suicide, the research found.

Also concerning, said Singal, was that another as-yet-unpublished study on prenatal care showed a large gap in at-risk moms not receiving regular prenatal care.

“What are the best avenues to help outreach efforts to increase pre-natal care and increase health care utilization by this population,” Singal said was a major emerging question.

“And then we have to look at, what are Canadian physicians doing in their offices, in primary health care settings to either screen for alcohol use during pregnancy or help support these moms?”

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