How do we stop Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) is an umbrella term describing the possible effects that can occur in an individual whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. FASD affects one in 100 infants each year, yet is 100 percent preventable. Some of those possible effects can include seizures, facial and other physical malformations, and developmental delays and other neurological problems.

And it’s 100 percent preventable.

How often do you get those kinds of stats related to birth defects?

I received this information this week in an email about a Community Action Summit taking place here in Tallahassee, starting tomorrow, in support of a statewide campaign, launched by the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, to eliminate FASD. ““Florida Fights FASD” seeks to engage and educate Floridians about the dangers of alcohol consumption during pregnancy and, ultimately, to reduce the number of children born with FASD in the state.

I was discussing this issue with my Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) group this morning, and quickly became aware of how much more complicated an issue it is to solve FASD than I had at first thought. At face value, it sounds simple: Get pregnant women to stop drinking. How hard can that be?

Then one of our moms, who used to work as a bartender, told us how hard it was for her when clearly pregnant women would come to her bar and drink heavily. HEAVILY. She wasn’t allowed to refuse them service on the grounds that they were pregnant, even though it went against every fiber of her being to see them consume round after round.

Should we make it illegal to drink while pregnant? After a very short discussion, it became clear that that was impractical. Who’s going to enforce this law? What if you can’t tell? It’s more dangerous to drink in the first trimester, when most women don’t show. Should women be forced to wear a scarlet “P” as soon as they get a positive pregnancy test? Clearly not.

Maybe greater education at he OB/GYN level should take place, during prenatal care. But then you find out that some of the women most at risk never receive prenatal care.


The goal of this week’s summit is to debate and brainstorm these issues and ignite “torchbearers” for the cause. These torchbearers will serve as community advocates and take FASD prevention activities and public awareness messages back to their local communities and/or share information with members of their organizations. Summit attendees will participate in an educational forum where expert speakers will lead discussions about the prevalence of FASD and what can be done to combat it.

The Summit is being held at the TCC Capitol Center, just west of the Florida Capitol and next to the Brogan Museum on Kleman Plaza. It begins with an evening welcome reception on Wednesday, Oct. 20, from 5 – 7 p.m. The main event will be held Thursday, Oct. 21, from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.

If you have any questions or need additional information, please don’t hesitate to contact Rick Oppenheim or Emma Washington at (850) 386-9100, or


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