Alcohol in pregnancy causes ‘most common form of learning disability’
14 September 2011
A research paper into the impact on learning of children suffering from FASD (foetal alcohol spectrum disorder) provides a wake-up call to the potential consequences of drinking alcohol when pregnant.
Swanswell, a national charity which wants to achieve a society free from problem alcohol and drug use, believes research such as this adds weight to the need for clearer guidance for pregnant women about the risks to their health and that of their unborn child.
The research paper, written by Professor Barry Carpenter OBE, investigates the challenges of teaching children diagnosed with FASD – the range of conditions caused by excessive exposure to alcohol in the womb.
The research reported here lead to a national study which shows how we must act urgently to skill-up teachers, to educate children with FASD.
It affects around one per cent of births in Europe, and sufferers display a range of physical and mental symptoms.
One of the key findings – and perhaps most surprising – is that those affected by FASD represent the largest group of children with learning difficulties/disabilities not caused by a genetic condition.
The research paper details how more guidance is needed to help teachers deal with the unusual learning style and extreme challenging behaviour experienced as a result of FASD, which Professor Carpenter believes only government-led approaches can improve.
Swanswell believes the research paper highlights some of the serious consequences of drinking while pregnant but adds that clear information should also be made available to pregnant women, as ultimately the decision to drink or not rests with them.
Debbie Bannigan, Chief Executive of Swanswell, said: ‘This research paper is written by one of the UK’s leading authorities on the effects of drinking while pregnant, and is clear evidence that during this time alcohol should simply be avoided. To advise anything else only causes confusion.
‘There is already a bewildering amount of health advice out there for expectant mothers - they have enough to deal with without worrying about how much alcohol they can ‘safely’ consume.
‘Within the space of two days this summer, the public were told that the Government was likely to increase its safe alcohol limits, and that new research had found that alcohol damages the DNA of unborn children beyond repair.
‘The Government and public bodies have a duty to keep it clear and simple – if you want to avoid risking the health of your child, don't drink when pregnant.’