By Amy Hendricks
Coordinator, NC Fetal Alcohol Prevention Program
Parenting begins long before you pick out a car seat, the crib or even buy a copy of What to Expect When Expecting. Parenting begins by you being the healthiest you can be before you get pregnant.
How can you have the healthiest pregnancy possible? Well, the key is to start thinking about this before you even become pregnant. There are many unknowns during pregnancy that we cannot control for, such as genetics, unknown maternal medical conditions and even some environmental factors. But you do have the power to create the healthiest possible environment for your baby to grow and develop while inside you.
It is important to be at a healthy weight before getting pregnant, take a multivitamin that contains folic acid and stop smoking or using any tobacco products. What you may not know is that alcohol use during pregnancy, even before you have a positive pregnancy test, can cause more neurobehavioral damage to your baby than tobacco, cocaine, heroin, marijuana and other illicit drugs. Now let’s be clear, no substance use in any form is healthy during pregnancy.
In our society, alcohol is not seen as a drug by many people, and many women are confused by the mixed messages about alcohol use during pregnancy. Research has proven that alcohol use during pregnancy, even in the earliest stages, can cause birth defects, brain damage and life-long challenges with learning and behavior.
This group of conditions is known as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs). The US Surgeon General, The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologist (ACOG) and The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have all issued statements that during pregnancy there is no safe type of alcohol, no safe amount of alcohol and no safe time to drink alcohol while pregnant.
FASDs are the only birth defects that are 100 percent preventable. So if you are pregnant or plan on getting pregnant, please refrain from any alcohol use to ensure the healthiest environment for your baby to grow and develop. For more information on how you can prevent FASDs, contact the NC Fetal Alcohol Prevention Program at Mission’s Fullerton Genetics at (828) 213-0035 or got to www.FASDinNC.org .
Amy Hendricks is the coordinator for NC Fetal Alcohol Prevention Program, Mission Fullerton Genetics Center, Mission Health