Improving Prevention and Support for People Living with FASD


​International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness (FASD) Day​​​


A message from Dr. Unjali Malhotra, FNHA Office of the Chief Medical Officer; and Toni Winterhoff, FNHA Specialist, Healthy Children​

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is preventable if a developing baby is not exposed to alcohol. As many pregnancies are unplanned, it is advisable to not drink alcohol if there is a possibility of pregnancy. FASD is term that is used to describe the effects of alcohol on the baby, which can include impacts to motor skills, physical health, learning, memory, attention, communication, emotional regulation, and social skills. ​​

International FASD day (Sept. 9) is a public health event aimed at raising awareness of FASD to improve both prevention and support for individuals living with it.

By talking about FASD and raising awareness about the risks associated with alcohol and pregnancy, we can empower lifegivers with the knowledge and resources they need to make informed decisions for a healthy pregnancy journey. Together, we can create a supportive environment that encourages safe and timely choices and promotes the well-being of both mother and baby. We can make a positive impact on future generations.

We know that everyone is doing their best to avoid any harm to their baby, and that everyone wants to keep up to date on the latest medical knowledge about preventing FASD as it comes out. So, it is important to share that in January 2023, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction updated its guidance on alcohol use and health with a new recommendation: Women should avoid alcohol completely when they are pregnant, trying to conceive, or breastfeeding.

We also know it can be hard to avoid alcohol during social events. You might find it helpful to discuss your choice with friends and family beforehand to ensure they are supportive.

Studies have shown that alcohol use during pregnancy can increase the risk of miscarriage or cause harm to the developing fetus at any stage. Avoiding alcohol is especially crucial in the early weeks of pregnancy, as pregnancies can often be unpredictable during this time.

For those who are living with FASD, there are health care professionals who can help you walk your health care journey and navigate the complexities of this disorder. Not all health care professionals have a deep understanding of FASD's impacts on cognitive functioning, behaviour regulation, and social interactions, so it will be important to find one/s who do have this deep understanding.

Each person is different and special, so every person's needs and challenges are too. By tailoring interventions and strategies to meet the unique needs of each individual along the FASD spectrum, in alignment with Indigenous ways of helping, health care professionals can make a significant difference in improving outcomes.

FNHA Supports for FASD 

If you are a FASD parent, or supporting somebody who is, the FNHA can help. The FASD program supports the development of culturally appropriate evidence-based prevention, promotion and early intervention programs related to FASD. Using a home visitation model, the FNHA currently funds care providers to come to the homes of FASD families to provide information and guidance. 


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