Irish Medical Organisation

600 babies born with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome in Ireland each year

  • Drinking during pregnancy can cause Foetal Alcohol Syndrome and Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder

  • Ireland one of top five countries with highest estimated prevalence of alcohol use during pregnancy

  • It is estimated that 600 babies are born with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome in Ireland each year

  • 80% of Irish women on first pregnancy reported consuming some alcohol in pregnancy

Friday 21st April 2017: Ireland features as one of the five countries with the highest prevalence of alcohol use during pregnancy and consequent cases of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), delegates at the Irish Medical Organisation’s (IMO) AGM in Galway heard.  Speaking at the IMO AGM which runs until Sunday, Dr. Mary T. O’Mahony, Specialist in Public Health Medicine at the HSE told delegates consuming alcohol during pregnancy causes FAS and Foetal Alcohol Spectrum disorders (FASD).

It is estimated that 600 babies are born with FAS in Ireland each year with an estimated 40,000 people living with the condition in this country1. 80% of Irish women pregnant for the first time reported consuming some alcohol in pregnancy.2

Dr. O’Mahony said, “Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause a permanent disability called Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. The consequences are induced brain damage which is permanent and is associated with physical, mental, educational, social and behavioural difficulties.”

At one end of the spectrum FAS may have visible signs of abnormalities and be recognised at birth.  FASD is not recognisable until preschool or school age when difficulties manifest.

Children born with FAS can show the following:-

  • 50% development preschool normal.
  • All severe brain dysfunction at 10years.
  • 10% attention problem at 5 years.
  • 60% attention problem at 10 years.
  • Only 30% IQ below normal, BUT.
  • 100% severe dysfunction in areas (eg. language, memory, activity level).

Addressing the IMO AGM Dr. Mary O’Mahony said that FASD has a huge societal impact and many children are misdiagnosed. “Children with FASD fill our Foster Care places, adults with FAS fill our jails and many people are misdiagnosed”, she said.

Dr. O’Mahony called for more support for women and more resources in the form of screening and interventions for alcohol and health promotion campaigns to educate women on the consequences of drinking during pregnancy. “We need to support women, clear consistent advice is needed to abstain from alcohol throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding.  Most people know that drinking alcohol while pregnant can harm the baby, but lots of women still have questions about drinking during pregnancy.  The long-term goal is to prevent Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder”, Dr. O’Mahony said.

1Lancet Global Health 2017, published online Jan 12.
2First International Conference on the Prevention of FASD

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