At least 20 cases of a condition caused by mums boozing during pregnancy are being reported in Middlesbrough each year.
Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is thought to be the leading cause of preventable learning difficulties in children.
A new report states up to 1,300 cases are thought to exist in Middlesbrough alone.
“There is no local study to document the prevalence of FASD in Middlesbrough but it is anticipated that it would be higher than one per cent of all live births,” reads the Middlesbrough Council report.
“There are approximately 2,000 children born each year in Middlesbrough which equates to 20 births per year or 1,300 cases based on Middlesbrough’s population figure.
“It is believed that many children with FASD enter the care system and are either fostered or adopted.”
So what is FASD?
Rather than being one condition, FASD is an umbrella term.
It is characterised by a number of symptoms including an abnormal appearance, short height, small head size, poor co-ordination, learning difficulties, behaviour problems and problems with seeing or hearing.
“Profound facial features and a flat nasal bridge are also prominent features in the most developed versions of FASD,” states the council report.
“FASD is not only a childhood condition and an individual will require support throughout their lifespan.”
What is so troubling is that it is complete preventable, avoided by mums abstaining from alcohol during pregnancy.
Studies found women in the most deprived areas were four times as likely to have a child with FASD than anywhere else.
And the cost is incredible, with the report stating research in the USA and Canada found the cost of caring for a child with FASD was a cool £1m EVERY year.
A glass of wine or two won’t harm the baby…will it?
That pretty much used to be the UK Government’s advice.
But that changed last year.
Now the NHS says: “Experts are still unsure exactly how much – if any – alcohol is completely safe for you to have while you’re pregnant.
“So the safest approach is not to drink at all while you’re expecting.”
And in February 2016 the UK Chief Medical Officer (CMO) revised the national guidelines to outline that:
* If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, the safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all to keep risks to the baby to a minimum.
* Drinking in pregnancy can lead to long-term harm to the baby, with the more you drink the greater the risk.
What is being done on Teesside?
Midwives are carrying out screenings, and a campaign launched to warn mums-to-be of the dangers.
However, doctors are reluctant to make the diagnosis, states the report, which adds: “Further research and a clear clinical pathway for diagnosis is needed in Middlesbrough.”