• Women have been urged not to consume alcohol if pregnant or trying to conceive.
The call comes from Junior Health Minister, Mary Wallace, on Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Awareness Day, which takes place every year on September 9.
Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) is the umbrella term used to describe the range of effects that can be caused by maternal alcohol exposure. Children identified as suffering from FASD show signs of behavioural, intellectual and physical difficulties including learning difficulties, poor language skills, poor memory skills and attention problems.
“I know that expectant mothers want to do everything possible to protect their baby. Everyone is aware about the advice not to smoke but there is much less awareness about the advice not to consume alcohol during
pregnancy. It is clearly in the child’s best interest for a pregnant woman not to drink alcohol during pregnancy,” Ms Wallace said.
She pointed to a study published by the Coombe Hospital last year, which found that between 1988 and 2005, most pregnant women drank alcohol. The study also found that one in 10 pregnant women drank more than six units of alcohol per week and that this pattern was more pronounced in younger women.
Ms Wallace called on women to heed the advice of the State’s chief medical officer, who has stated that alcohol consumption by pregnant women poses a risk to unborn babies.
However Irish MEP (member of European Parliament), Mairead McGuinness, has criticised the Government for not introducing mandatory labeling on alcohol products warning of the dangers of alcohol consumption while pregnant.
Ms McGuinness, who is co-hosting a seminar on this issue in the European Parliament in Brussels today, said that around 350 babies are born in Ireland every year with foetal alcohol syndrome.
She added that despite the fact that the drinks industry has agreed to introduce pregnancy warning labels on their products, the legislation required for this has still not been brought forward.