PREGNANT women in South Tyneside are being advised to cut out alcohol, as figures reveal the impact it is having on families in the region.
Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, has issued the warning as part of a national awareness day for Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) – a series of preventable birth defects, both mental and physical, caused by expectant mums drinking alcohol.
These defects of the brain and the body exist only because of pre-natal exposure to alcohol.
FASD is preventable, but about 300 babies born each year in the North East may suffer from the condition, and 26,000 people in the North East could be affected.
Often the condition goes undiagnosed, or is misdiagnosed, for example as autism or ADHD, and this can lead to secondary disabilities.
Mary Edwards, programme manager for alcohol treatment at Balance, said: “It’s clear that FASD can have a devastating impact on the lives of children and the entire family.
“It’s important to stress that there is no safe limit when it comes to alcohol and pregnancy, and experts say that abstinence is the only safe policy for women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy.
“Alcohol misuse is damaging lives across our region and comes in many guises.
“The North East has the highest rate of under-18 alcohol-specific hospital admissions in England, and more than half of all violent crime is linked to alcohol.
“Drinking too much and too often has become central in too many people’s lives, and it’s been put there by an alcohol industry which places profit above the public health.”
Dr Shonag Mackenzie, lead obstetrician at Northumbria Healthcare, said: “FASD is the most common preventable disability in children which is why we would advise people that no alcohol is by far the safest option before and during pregnancy.”