Prevention of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD)

Learn about awareness and prevention of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).

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How can FASD be prevented?

If you’re planning a pregnancy, the best thing to do is to stop drinking alcohol in advance of your pregnancy. If you aren’t planning a pregnancy, you can help prevent FASD by properly using:

  • condoms
  • contraceptive pills
  • other contraception

Some pregnancies are not planned, and you may have been drinking alcohol before you knew you were pregnant. Once you find out you’re pregnant, it’s best to stop drinking alcohol immediately. Every day without alcohol makes a difference. If you’re concerned about the risks to the fetus, it’s best to seek the advice of a health care provider. 

If you’re a partner, family member or friend, you can support a pregnant woman by:

  • not drinking
  • encouraging her not to drink alcohol while pregnant

Who is at risk?

FASD 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 women may drink during pregnancy:

  • Because up to 50% of pregnancies are unplanned, they may drink before they know they are pregnant.
  • They may have problems quitting because of addiction issues.
  • They may use alcohol to cope with trauma or violence.
  • They may not be aware of the risks of alcohol use during pregnancy.

What types of prevention programs are available?

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

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

In First Nations and Inuit communities, contact your:

  • health centre
  • nursing station
  • community health nurse
  • addictions and treatment programs 

If you’re unsure if you have a problem with alcohol, Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines indicate what amounts of alcohol are considered moderate. They also outline situations when you should not drink at all, including while pregnant or planning a pregnancy.

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