The HSE is calling on pregnant women, and those trying to get pregnant, to have an alcohol-free pregnancy.
According to the HSE, the prevalence of alcohol consumption during pregnancy in Ireland is high. It pointed to a study in the journal, BMJ Open, which found that alcohol use during pregnancy ‘is prevalent and socially pervasive' in Ireland and ‘new policy and interventions are required to reduce alcohol prevalence both prior to and during pregnancy'.
The HSE pointed out that exposure to alcohol in the womb can lead to life-long problems caused by foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD).
FASD is the range of effects that can occur when a foetus is exposed to alcohol. These effects may be physical or mental, and can include behavioural or learning disabilities.
"These conditions may not be detected at birth, but may later show up in the form of behavioural, social, learning and attention difficulties in childhood, adolescence and throughout adulthood.
"There are a lot of mixed messages out there about alcohol and pregnancy. Women can often get completely different advice from friends, family, health professionals and the media, and some may feel social pressure to drink during their pregnancy," commented Dr Mary O'Mahony, a HSE specialist in public health medicine.
She explained that when you drink alcohol while pregnant, it passes from your bloodstream through the placenta and into the baby's bloodstream.
"Alcohol can affect the baby's development, so our advice is that a completely alcohol-free pregnancy is best. We also want families and friends to know the positive role they can play in supporting an alcohol-free pregnancy," Dr O'Mahony said.
The HSE added that if you are finding it hard to stop drinking, you should talk to your midwife, GP or local alcohol service. You can also call the HSE Drug and Alcohol Helpline on 1800 459 459, Monday to Friday, from 9.30am to 5.30pm.
The HSE made its call to coincide with FASD Awareness Day (September 9). For more information on drinking and alcohol, click here
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