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alcohol health alliance uk

Open letter from the 12 NE Directors of Public Health

Posted 09/09/14

We want to send a clear message to parents-to-be that alcohol and pregnancy don't mix - the safest option is an alcohol free pregnancy. This needs to be the advice given during all stages of pregnancy from conception to birth by all healthcare professionals.

There are a lot of mixed messages about how much alcohol is ‘safe’ during pregnancy. Researchers still don’t know how much alcohol is safe to drink when pregnant, however, we do know that the risk of damage to an unborn baby increases the more a woman drinks and that binge drinking is especially harmful. It’s just not worth the risk.

National Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Awareness Day is taking place this week (Tuesday 9th September) and we want to use this as a platform to raise awareness of FASD and to also call for clearer advice and guidelines for parents-to-be.

Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders are a series of preventable birth defects, both mental and physical, that can be caused by a woman drinking alcohol at any time during her pregnancy. These defects of the brain and the body exist only because of prenatal exposure to alcohol and it’s a leading cause of non-generic learning disability in the UK.

Although it’s still underdiagnosed, statistics show that approximately 1% of all babies born may have some form of FASD, meaning around one baby is born each day in the North East with FASD.

FASD has a higher incidence rate than Autism, Down’s Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Cystic Fibrosis, Spina Bifida and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome combined. It is preventable – which is why we need to advise parents that no alcohol is by far the safest option before and during pregnancy.

Alcohol continues to have a huge impact on children and young people and we need to do everything we can to protect them – right through from conception to adulthood.

Yours sincerely,

Anna Lynch 

Director of Public Health, County Durham
Chair of NE DsPH Network on behalf of the following:

Toks Sangowawa, Acting Director of Public Health, Redcar & Cleveland
Nonnie Crawford, Director of Public Health, Sunderland
Miriam Davidson, Director of Public Health, Darlington
Marietta Evans, Director of Public Health, North Tyneside
Amanda Healy, Director of Public Health South Tyneside
Peter Kelly, Director of Public Health, Stockton
Edward Kunonga, Director of Public Health, Middlesbrough
Eugene Milne, Director of Public Health, Newcastle
Louise Wallace, Director of Public Health, Hartlepool
Carole Wood, Director of Public Health, Gateshead
Penny Spring, Director of Public Health Designate, Northumberland