NEW YORK — There are many risks that go along with drinking alcohol. For a pregnant woman, those risks can be especially harmful for their unborn child. Despite the dangers, an unnerving survey finds a quarter of young adults are unaware of the threat alcohol poses for a fetus.
A poll of 2,000 British adults between 18 and 25 reveals slightly more than a quarter (26 percent) don’t know health recommendations for drinking while pregnant. When it comes to alcohol, Britain’s chief medical officer says the safest drink for expecting mothers is no drink at all.
The study was commissioned by the National Organization for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (NOFAS). The group which supports families affected by pregnant drinking says few people are getting all the facts about this issue.
Researchers for the OnePoll survey find 49 percent of young adults are getting their information about alcohol use and pregnancy from social media. Just 17 percent correctly know alcohol exposure in the womb can cause more long-term harm than heroin exposure. Such exposure can lead to various fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs).
“Information is power. It is deeply concerning that so few young people are aware of the dangers,” says Sandra Butcher, of NOFAS-UK, in a statement. “FASD is preventable – no alcohol, no risk.”
Only four in 10 young adults say a teacher discussed this topic with them.
‘Perfect storm’ during the pandemic
The study says beer and liquor sales in the U.K. have skyrocketed during the coronavirus pandemic. Advocates fear the lack of proper pregnancy knowledge and rising alcohol use may cause a spike in FASD cases.
“If one-quarter of those in childbearing years hasn’t got the message yet, that could lead to a massive risk of FASD,” health and social care lecturer Jo Buckard warns. “Add to that the fact that during this lockdown it’s harder to get access to contraceptives and pregnancy tests, it’s a perfect storm for a possible future upsurge in FASD.”
Better awareness of dangers from drinking while pregnant
Researchers say previous studies show FASD is a more common disorder than autism. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drinking while pregnant can lead to physical, behavioral, and learning problems in the child.
Symptoms of FASD include hyperactive behavior, poor memory, speech and language delays, low IQ, and problems with the heart, kidneys, or bones.
Buckard says NOFAS is helping to get the word out to young people, but more work needs to be done.
“We hope schools and community groups will get behind this initiative,” Butcher adds. “Adults have missed the mark on this for so long, we believe once they have the facts the next generation will be the one to stop this preventable, hidden epidemic.”