Common Messages Guidelines Updated

In 2017, CanFASD developed a document intended to encourage consistency in how we talk and write about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Our Common Messages Guidelines have now been around for five years, and we regularly update them to reflect new research and information.

CanFASD strongly believes that respect, dignity, and human worth for people with FASD, people who are pregnant, and their support systems should be promoted. We also value information that is accurate and evidence-based. Our Guidelines align with these values and promote messages that are in line with these principles.

Our revised 2022 Guidelines were just released. They include additions and updates related to:

  • FASD and mental health statistics;
  • Strengths-based language and healthy outcomes;
  • Language around diagnosis;
  • Using “may have FASD” instead of “suspected FASD”
  • Reframing conversations around “won’t” vs “can’t” to focus more on how we can best provide supports; and
  • Gender inclusive language

Read the full document to see all the changes for yourself!

Retrieved from https://canfasd.ca/2022/03/30/common-messages-guidelines-updated/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=common-messages-guidelines-updated



You can view the whole article here:  https://www.womenshealth.com.au/fetal-alcohol-spectrum-disorder-3-mothers-share-their-experiences/

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) the leading non-genetic developmental disability in Australia, caused by drinking alcohol during pregnancy. 

In some cases the symptoms of FASD often go overlooked and undiagnosed – a recent study of almost 1,500 Australian women aged 18-44 years found that more than half (51 percent) of women surveyed were not aware that alcohol use could cause harm even in the first few weeks after conception – leaving those who have FASD unsupported in school environments and beyond.

“The effects of this condition are life long,” explains Professor Elizabeth Elliott, University of Sydney. “So even though it is often diagnosed in children, as those children grow up, if they have problems with understanding and expressing their feelings, if they’ve got poor impulse control, they often drop our of school, they often get in trouble with the legal system, and they often have poor self esteem. Many of them cannot live and work independantly, so it’s really important to understand that this is a life-long problem.”

To find out more, we spoke to three mothers  who have experienced FASD, and hear their stories.


– Mother of a child with FASD

I was physically dependent upon alcohol when I fell pregnant after self-medicating on, amongst other trauma, the devastating news that without IVF, I could not conceive. That sad irony is not lost on me. When my son received his official diagnosis of FASD (he was first diagnosed with autism), it solidified what deep down, I already knew and that was very confronting. The guilt was crippling however it was also a moment of great relief as the early interventions and accommodations my son desperately needed became available to him. He had his correct diagnosis.

My child’s symptoms include difficulty with emotional regulation, extreme anxiety, speech issues, sensory issues and both academic and social challenges at school. Especially in mathematics and handwriting. These symptoms present as behaviours such as yelling, throwing things and shutting down. He has an NDIS plan which allows for him to attend speech therapy, occupational therapy and psychology. This has helped him immeasurably. His therapists also communicate with his school and they have been wonderful with implementing any and all accommodations suggested to ensure school is a positive place. Fidget and sensory items help with anxiety.

I have also learned and adapted to my son’s world rather than expecting him to fit our rigid world. He simply cannot do that. Rather than driving to team sports, we are driving to therapy appointments but we still make it a lot of fun. 

My advice is for women wanting to conceive and given that around one third of pregnancies are unplanned, any women where potentially falling pregnant is a possibility. FASD is an irreversible lifelong brain based disability which is invisible from the outside in the vast majority of children and it’s 100% preventable. It can and does occur at low level alcohol consumption and when women have stopped drinking the second they found out they were pregnant. There is now no doubt that there is no safe limit of alcohol consumption at any time during pregnancy. Alcohol is a teratogen and crosses the placenta causing damage to the unborn baby’s brain and organ development. Prevention is key however I would be remiss not to address any women who may already have consumed alcohol during pregnancy and are worried about their child. The correct diagnosis is always the best diagnosis and women need not feel shame or blame in disclosing alcohol use during their pregnancy in order to get help for their children. Any women who are physically dependant on alcohol also need not feel shame in disclosing this as there is help and support available. My advice for health professionals, please show understanding and compassion. No mother intentionally sets out to harm her unborn child. 

Click here to read the full article.

Retrieved from https://preventionconversation.org/2022/03/09/fetal-alcohol-spectrum-disorder-3-mothers-share-their-experiences/


Women, Alcohol Consumption and the COVID-19 Pandemic

Join us on Tuesday, 15 March, on the webinar “Women, Alcohol Consumption and the COVID-19 Pandemic” to discuss the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on women´s mental health, alcohol consumption, and how alcohol marketing, policies and interventions have influenced women’s health during the COVID-19 pandemic. The session will also discuss the implications for equity and the building of health systems that are responsive to gender differences and the needs of women across their life span.

How to participate


Many studies have raised concerns about alcohol consumption among women during the coronavirus pandemic. Stressful events correlate with higher levels of alcohol consumption at the population level. Data from the early stages of the pandemic in the Americas suggested that anxiety and depression symptoms were more prevalent in women and those reporting heavy episodic drinking before the pandemic tended to increase their use during the period. Also, the effects of “drinking to forget one’s worries” seemed more prominent among women. In the eastern part of Europe, women were less likely to decrease their alcohol use during the pandemic compared to men.

The COVID-19 pandemic also led people to spend more time online. Online alcohol marketing skyrocketed, as well as sales online, in many countries. Alcohol companies have seen an unprecedent opportunity to market their brands and products, raising their capacity to historically shape how gender roles and expectations are understood, as well as increasing the likelihood of drinking among women and girls, which constitute a large potential group for alcohol sales. Alcohol is also portrayed as coping mechanism for pandemic-related stress of motherhood, contributing to misinformation on alcohol use among women and the health problems associated with it, including during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Multiple dimensions shape women’s experiences with alcohol use and must shape the health responses to support them, especially in difficult times.


  • Welcome and moderation. 
    • Kristina Sperkova. President, Movendi International
  • Opening remarks
    • Carina Ferreira-Borges. Acting Director, WHO European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases
  • Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on women’s mental health
    • Dévora Kestel. Director, Department of Mental Health, World Health Organization
  • Alcohol use among women during the COVID-19 pandemic: what do we know?
    • Zila Sanchez. Associate Professor, Department of Preventive Medicine, Federal University of Sao Paulo
  • Lockdown and alcohol marketing targeted to women and girls
    • Amanda Atkinson. Senior Researcher, Public Health Institute, Liverpool John Moores University
  • Motherhood, COVID-19 and alcohol use
    • Svetlana Popova. Senior Scientist, Institute for Mental Health Policy Research, Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute, CAMH
  • Protecting women and girls from alcohol promotion
    • TBC
  • Questions & Answers
  • Closing remarks & thank you
    • Maristela Monteiro. Senior Advisor on Alcohol and Substance Use, Pan American Health Organization

Time correspondence

  •   7:00 am.– Los Ángeles, Vancouver
  •   8:00 am. – Belmopan, Guatemala City, México City,  Managua, San José (CR), San Salvador, Tegucigalpa
  •  9:00 am. – Bogota, Kingston, Lima, Panama City, Quito
  •  10:00 am. –  Bridgetown, Caracas, Castries, Georgetown, Havana, La Paz, Nassau, Ottawa, Port-au-Prince, Port of Spain, San Juan, Santo Domingo, Washington DC 
  •   11:00 am  – Asunción, Buenos Aires, Brasilia, Montevideo, Paramaribo, Santiago
  •   3:00 pm. – Copenhagen, Geneva, Madrid

For other cities, check the time in the following link



Alcohol is a widely consumed psychoactive substance that contributes to substantial health and social problems. Harms range from unhealthy weight gain from liquid calories to several types of cancer. Since the pandemic began, about one-third of people surveyed are drinking more. But few people understand the risks involved in drinking alcohol. 

To investigate how alcohol container labels can be used to build public awareness, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction commissioned Enhanced Alcohol Container Labels: A Systematic Review and developed a summary of the report’s highlights. These findings will be useful for public health stakeholders, researchers and policy makers considering the evidence on alcohol container labels.

Key findings include: 

  • In Canada, alcohol containers are not required to display information like the nutrition information on food or the health warnings on medications and other regulated substances like tobacco or cannabis.
  • Alcohol container labels in Canada lack information that would help people make more informed decisions about their alcohol consumption. 
  • Evidence suggests there is public support for alcohol drink labels with nutrition information, health warnings, standard drink sizes and low-risk drinking guidelines.
  • Such labels can improve consumer knowledge of alcohol-related risks and, in some cases, decrease alcohol purchases and amounts consumed. 

Enhanced alcohol container labels are one way to provide critical information to help people living in Canada who drink alcohol to make informed and healthier decisions about their consumption. They should continue to be studied, especially in real-world settings, to inform labelling standards and policies.


This document summarizes key findings from the technical report of the same name that analyzes the published research on alcohol labels with nutrition information, health warnings, standard drink information and low-risk drinking guidelines. 


This document analyzes the published research on alcohol labels with nutrition information, health warnings, standard drink information and low-risk drinking guidelines. Key findings show alcohol drink labels with this information improve consumer knowledge of alcohol-related risks, and, in some studies, decrease the intention to buy or drink alcohol, and the total amount of alcohol consumed. Evidence suggests there is public support for adding alcohol drink labels with this information.

Retrieved from https://preventionconversation.org/2022/03/07/ccsa-enhanced-alcohol-container-labels-a-systematic-review/



Written by Sophie, Biological mum to a teenage son with FASD

Parenting, in general, is hard work. It is challenging but also rewarding, especially as a biological mother to a teenage son with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

It’s been almost 18 months since my son was formally diagnosed with FASD, a journey that was years in the making.

FASD is the leading non-genetic developmental disorder in Australia caused by drinking alcohol while pregnant. People with FASD experience lifelong physical, behavioural and cognitive challenges.

More than one in four women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy are unaware drinking even low levels of alcohol during pregnancy can cause FASD.

Until a few years ago, I was one of these women.

Every Moment Matters: What I Wish I Knew

I was in my early 30s when I fell pregnant with my son. I’d been married for four years to a medical professional and had started to prepare by changing what I ate and drank.

My pregnancy was confirmed at six weeks. We were surprised and delighted. But the excitement was followed by trepidation. I had drunk alcohol the night of conception while entertaining with friends and had a few glasses of wine with friends on two further occasions before finding out I was pregnant.

As soon as I realised I was pregnant, I stopped drinking socially and reduced my weekly consumption to half a glass.

Although we were planning a pregnancy, we didn’t expect to fall pregnant so quickly. Almost one in two Australian women are not aware that alcohol could cause harm even in the early stages of pregnancy.

Every parent wants to do the right thing for their growing baby to give them the best start in life. I would drink one weak coffee per day, wash my salad, and avoid soft cheese for fear of causing harm to my developing baby.

However, I still remember standing in my kitchen for my “Friday night treat” measuring one standard glass of wine. The amount was considered safe at the time. The guidelines are now very clear and if you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, you should not drink alcohol

Click here to read the full article.

Retrieved from https://mumcentral.com.au/fetal-alcohol-spectrum-disorder/

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not
necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the ‘FASD Prevention Conversation, A Shared Responsibility Project’, its stakeholders, and/or funder

Retrieved from https://preventionconversation.org/2022/02/23/what-i-wish-i-knew-about-fetal-alcohol-spectrum-disorder/


CanFASD Webinar: Understanding the FASD Diagnosis

Understanding the FASD Diagnosis. Free CanFASD Webinar. Friday February 18, 2022. 10amPT, 11am MT, 12pm CT, 1pm ET, 2pm AT. With Colleen Burns, Presenter, Hasmukhlal Rajani, Presenter, Jocelynn Cook, Host.

Our newest webinar, Understanding the FASD Diagnosiswill be held Friday February 28, 2022 at 1:00pm EST.

Researchers have shown that early diagnosis can improve outcomes for people with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Early diagnosis can lead to earlier support and interventions, which can reduce the risk of health challenges and common secondary outcomes in the future. Early diagnosis can also help reduce stigma, improve understanding and self-awareness, and potentially identify substance use challenges in parents.

But what does FASD diagnosis look like? You usually can’t tell if someone has FASD just from looking at them, the visible facial differences show up in less than 10% of cases. There are also no specific medical tests, like a blood test, that can tell us if someone has FASD. FASD diagnosis involves a multi-disciplinary team of professionals that assess various aspects of an individual to come to a diagnosis.

This webinar will provide an overview of the FASD diagnostic guidelines and the process of clinic. It will assist families, service providers and policy makers to better understand the elements that make up an FASD diagnosis and what you can expect during the process. It will feature presentations from two key individuals in the diagnostic process: Dr. Hasmukhlal (Hasu) Rajani and Colleen Burns.

Colleen Burns has been the Clinic Training Services Coordinator for the Rajani Assessment and Diagnostic Clinic Training Services since 2011.  She facilitates training and community practice events and develops resources for FASD clinic teams. Dr. Rajani is the Team Physician for the Lakeland Centre for FASD diagnostic clinic, as well as for the North West Central FASD Network, North East Alberta FASD Network Assessment and Diagnostic Clinics, and the Alexander First Nation Assessment Clinic. He provides clinic training and mentors and educates Government and other agencies and FASD assessment and diagnostic clinics to strengthen their ability to provide consistent diagnostic and supportive services.

Register now to attend. As always, our presentations will be recorded and a copy of the webinar will be uploaded to our YouTube channel after the event. You can now watch a recording of our previous webinar, Optimizing Employment Opportunities and Outcomes for People with FASD.

Retrieved from https://canfasd.ca/2022/02/09/new-webinar-understanding-the-fasd-diagnosis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-webinar-understanding-the-fasd-diagnosis




In our work on FASD prevention, reaching women on the topic of the effects of alcohol use before they In our work on FASD prevention, reaching women on the topic of the effects of alcohol use before they are pregnant is a much needed component. Yet when offering a continuum of perinatal and reproductive care, our health care systems usually do not make preconception health a priority. It is indeed a challenge to promote critical thinking about alcohol use in pregnancy when women a) are not yet actively planning a pregnancy,  b) are unaware, misinformed or unconcerned about of the effects of alcohol, or c) are acutely aware of the stigma associated with drinking alcohol in pregnancy and resistant to hearing the message.

In a recent article for the UK journal, International Journal of Birth and Parent Educationwe described what is known about empowering and effective preconception health interventions, to catalyse and support the work of health care practitioners working with women of childbearing years.

We entitled the article “Beyond Screening” as it is important to enter discussions about alcohol use in pregnancy as conversations that reduce stigma and support critical thinking about alcohol use before, during, and after pregnancy.

In a section of the article entitled “Issues and Actions Needed” we offered 8 key considerations when offering preconception education and support on substance use issues:

  1. moving beyond screening – Asking about what women know about effects of substance use in pregnancy and what their plans are, may be more engaging and helpful to open conversations, rather than starting with formal screening questions
  2. reducing stigma – By naming how stigma and fears of judgement may be a barrier, health care providers can build an open relationship with women that facilitates safety and empowerment
  3. involving women – In the context of substance use by women overall, and in pregnancy, where judgement, bias, discrimination, misinformation and stigma are rampant, it is particularly important to involve women respectfully and collaboratively in defining what works for them
  4. involving men/partners– Involving partners in preconception and prenatal care, messaging, and support can be an important strategy for reducing the weight of pregnancy planning for women, and for improving overall health.
  5. using technology – Web-based support on substance use issues is increasingly available to extend the reach and engagement by the public in early and accessible assistance. Sharing where such information is available, supports the seeking of assistance in an anonymous and self determining way
  6. building on practitioner wisdom and relationships – Motivational Interviewing and other evidence informed practices are already being used by many practitioners for guiding conversations on substance use that are trauma informed, harm reduction oriented and strengths based. These approaches are highly relevant in conversations about substance use before, during and following pregnancy, and can be best ‘heard’ in conversations with trusted providers. 
  7. multi-tasking – The benefits and reach of dual focus preconception interventions (that involve discussion of substance use with other health issues) are important. Integrating discussion of how alcohol may be a factor linked with nutrition, mental wellness, prevention of intimate partner violence and/or housing can be helpful, and respectful of women’s interests.
  8. embedding preconception conversations in multiple systems of care – It is vital that preconception care be well integrated in health, social, and community care, with many types of practitioners all playing a role.

We are appreciative of being asked to revisit what we know about preconception interventions, and see it as important for everyone to ask of their communities and countries:

  • Who is doing preconception interventions on alcohol and other substance use?
  • In what additional contexts can preconception health and substance use issues be raised?
  • How can we promote gender and other forms of equity as we are doing preconception interventions on substance use?
  • What does each practitioner need to support action on this level of FASD prevention?

Retrieved from https://preventionconversation.org/2022/01/31/canfasd-prevention-of-fasd-through-preconception-conversations/


ABLE2- Supporting Individuals with FASD: Grow Education Series

Grow Education Series

ABLE2’s Fetal Alcohol Resource Program is hosting a webinar focused on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)

Topics include:

  • FASD 101
  • Red flags that can indicate FASD in someone undiagnosed or misdiagnosed
  • Basics of FASD diagnosis
  • Common strengths and how to build on them
  • Common challenges and strategies for support
  • FASD across the lifespan
  • How to access FASD resources in your community

Who should attend?

  • Educators
  • Front line workers
  • Professionals
  • Caregivers
  • Friends and family of people with FASD
  • Everyone

We all have a role to play in supporting people with FASD.

Workshop Details

Day & Date: Friday, February 4, 2022

Time: 10:00 am – 12:00 pm

Cost: Free

Registration: Please register using the link below. Registered participants will be sent the Zoom link to access the workshop prior to the workshop.

NOTE: Registration closes at 9:00 am on February 4, 2022. No registrations will be accepted after this time.

Funded by Ontario’s Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services via CHEO, the City of Ottawa and the Ontario Trillium Fund.

Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services logo
CHEO Community Partner
City of Ottawa logo


Retrieved from https://www.able2.org/events/supporting-individuals-with-fasd-feb/