For FASD Awareness Day, Nunavut health officials urge alcohol-free pregnancies
“Partners, family and friends can all support alcohol-free and drug-free pregnancies"
Nunavut health officials are issuing a plea ahead of International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness Day on Sunday, Sept. 9.
Its message: “Partners, family and friends can all support alcohol-free and drug-free pregnancies by reducing stress for the mother-to-be, offering non-alcoholic drinks at gatherings or planning activities that do not involve alcohol or drugs.”
FASD includes a range of disabilities that result from exposing an unborn child to alcohol during pregnancy.
These effects may include physical, mental, behavioral, sensory processing and learning difficulties.
So “it’s safest not to drink any alcohol or use any drugs, including cannabis, while pregnant,” a Government of Nunavut news release said in advance of International FASD Awareness Day.
Canada does not gather national statistics on FASD, so it’s hard to say how many children in Nunavut are impacted, although it’s estimated to affect about one per cent of the national population.
A 2004 Justice Canada document suggested the rate in Nunavut, based on figures from Alaska, could be as much as 50 times higher than the national average.
“It is believed that the incidence rate is quite high, particularly in communities where alcohol abuse, [is] combined with lack of education and information,” it states, adding that many FASD sufferers end up in the criminal justice system.
A 2014 FASD prevention campaign from the GN aimed to send a clear and direct message to pregnant women in the territory, but some Nunavummiut said it offered little support to young mothers.
If you or someone you know needs support with substance use during pregnancy, help is available, the GN said in its advisory.
“Reach out to a trusted friend, family member or elder. Free, confidential mental health and addictions support is available at your local health centre,” it said.
For anonymous support:
• Call the Nunavut Kamatsiaqtut Help Line (available 24 hours a day, seven days a week) at 867-979-3333 or toll-free at 1-800-265-3333.
• Text Crisis Services Canada at 1-833-456-4566 or use the online chat.
• Visit Isaksimagit Inuusirmi Kataujjiqatigiit Embrace Life Council’s website, or call the toll free line at 1-866-804-2782.