Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder: Prevention 

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Almost 50% of pregnancies in Canada are unplanned. Sometimes parents consume alcohol before they know about the pregnancy.

If you're planning a pregnancy, the best thing to do is stop drinking alcohol in advance. Properly use condoms, contraceptive pills or other contraception if you aren't planning a pregnancy, but are:

  • drinking alcohol
  • having sex that could result in pregnancy

This will reduce your chance of pregnancy and will help prevent fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

Once you've confirmed you're pregnant, it's safest to stop drinking alcohol immediately. Every day without alcohol makes a difference. Ask your health care provider for advice about the risks of alcohol and the health of a fetus.

A partner's drinking will not cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. However, it can influence the birthing parent's consumption and the healthy development of the baby.

You can support a pregnant person by:

  • not drinking
  • being supportive and present
  • encouraging them not to drink alcohol while pregnant

People at risk

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder can affect anyone. No single group has been proven to be at higher risk for drinking alcohol during pregnancy than any other group.

There are many reasons why people may consume alcohol during pregnancy. The birthing parent may:

  • not know they're pregnant
  • use alcohol to cope with life situations, such as:
    • trauma
    • poverty
    • isolation
    • violence
    • depression
  • have problems quitting because of addiction issues
  • not be aware of the risks of alcohol use during pregnancy

Prevention supports

If you think you drink too much or others have suggested you do, you can seek help from your:

  • health care provider, such as a:
    • doctor
    • midwife
    • community health nurse
  • local health centre, such as a:
    • friendship centre
    • local public health unit
    • community health/resource centre
  • provincial or territorial:
    • ministry of health
    • health and social services

If you live in a First Nations or Inuit community, contact your local:

  • health centre
  • nursing station
  • community health nurse

If you're unsure if you have a problem with alcohol, compare how much you drink to recommended guidelines. They also outline situations when you should not drink at all, including while pregnant or planning a pregnancy.

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