Around one in a hundred babies in Europe is born with disabilities caused by mothers consuming alcohol during pregnancy, Addiction Switzerland has warned. It is calling for awareness in Switzerland to be raised on the issue.
It launched its information campaign on Wednesday, as September 9 is International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Awareness Dayexternal link. FASD is a range of harm to unborn babies which includes damage to the brain, heart, eyes and other organs. The child can, for example, experience delayed growth or behavioural problems.
Up to 19% of women in Switzerland aged 15-45 drink too much alcohol at least once a month, the non-government Addiction Switzerland said in a statement. Among pregnant women this is around 5-6%.
Although it couldn’t give exact figures for how many babies are affected by their mother’s alcohol consumption in Switzerland – reliable figures don’t exist – Addiction Switzerland said that in Europe between five and 20 newborns out of 10,000 are estimated to suffer from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), the most severe form of FASD.
Alcohol reaches an unborn child through the placenta. It is not clear how much alcohol causes harm, but Addiction Switzerland recommends giving up drinking completely during pregnancy. Large quantities of alcohol must be avoided at all costs.
Breastfeeding mothers should wait at least two hours before feeding their children, the organisation added. It called on friends and family to support future and new mothers in giving up alcohol.
“It is not just a pregnant woman’s responsibility: their partners and society are also called on to support them in avoiding alcohol and not to encourage them to drink with them. This has an influence on how much alcohol is consumed during pregnancy,” said the statement.
The Federal Health Office also recommends avoiding alcohol completely during pregnancy and breastfeeding. It says an estimated 5,000 unborn babies are at risk of FASD in Switzerland a year. Overall, around 60% of women do not drink while pregnant.
swissinfo.ch and agencies