December is here, and with it comes all the excitement, anticipation, and tasty treats that the holiday season brings. Indulging is a common theme throughout the holiday season. We love to fill up on delicious chocolate, candy, and baked goods to keep our minds off the cold and snowy weather outside.
Alcohol is one common treat that we often overindulge in during the holiday season. Studies have found that in the wider population, individual’s alcohol consumption increases around specific social events (such as on days like Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve) and data from the 2015 sales of wine and liquor show a massive spike in retail sales from December 6thto January 2nd.
Remember, there is no safe time, no safe amount, and no safe type of alcohol to consume during pregnancy. The safest and healthiest option is not to drink at all. However, abstaining from alcohol this holiday season can be a challenge as the holiday party invites and dinners just keep coming. If you’re finding not drinking a challenge this holiday season here’s some tips to keep in mind:
- You can say no
Remember it’s okay to prioritize your health and the health of your child over social events. You have every right to say “no” when you receive those invites to holiday celebrations. If you feel that attending these events will put you in a vulnerable situation, decline your invitation or make the decision to leave the party earlier. You don’t have to feel obligated to do anything you don’t feel comfortable doing this holiday season.
- Bring a sober buddy
Ask a friend or family member that you trust to refrain from drinking alcohol with you. This could just be for events that you attend together, or it could be the entire duration of your pregnancy. Be sure this is someone you trust to maintain their sobriety along with you, and have serious conversations beforehand
- Get help
This is the most important tip. You are not alone; many women find it challenging to abstain from alcohol during pregnancy. There are a number of resources and services available to help support you stop or even reduce your alcohol consumption. Check in with your family doctor or look into local services to find the best option for you and your family. It’s never too late!
Friends, families, and community members also play a key role in FASD prevention. Here are some tips that everyone can follow to help women have safe and healthy pregnancies this holiday season and beyond:
- Provide alcohol-free options
If you’re hosting a holiday party or event, make sure there are alcohol-free options available for those who are choosing not to drink. Fun and fancy alcohol-free mocktails can make people who aren’t drinking feel included, and they don’t draw attention to someone’s abstinence.
- Respect everyone’s choices
There are many reasons people might choose not to drink this holiday season. People might be pregnant, recovering from addiction, abstaining for health reasons, are the designated driver, or could simply not want to. Refrain from questions like “why aren’t you drinking?” sentences like “just one can’t hurt”. Drawing attention to someone’s sobriety can lead to feelings of stigmatization and isolation.
- Support pregnant mothers
You can help to support healthy pregnancies by hosting alcohol-free events or choosing to go alcohol-free along with your pregnant friends or family members.
If you do drink alcohol while pregnant please visit your doctor or reach out to a local prenatal support programs. They can provide you with the services and resources to support you and your baby’s health, such as:
- Nutrition and health counselling;
- Peer group support;
- Referral to counselling services;
- Help to deal with drug and alcohol issues;
- Support to stop smoking;
- And many more!
Have a safe and happy holiday season, from everyone at CanFASD!
Caregivers of individuals with FASD often experience a number of significant challenges in their daily lives. Some researchers have suggested that the stress experienced by caregivers of individuals with FASD is different, and more stressful, from that of other developmental disabilities, like autism spectrum disorder and down syndrome.
Factors such as educational supports, relief for caregivers, respect and assistance from professionals, information, and personal support networks are integral to achieving successful outcomes for individuals with FASD, but caregivers often report not having access to the supports and services needed to successfully care for their child. It is critical to not only care for the individual with FASD, but to also care for the caregivers raising and supporting individuals with FASD.
The authors of this report explored the current body of literature that investigates the experiences of caregivers in supporting individuals with FASD. Although the research team explores FASD from a UK lens, they acknowledge that approximately 50% of the studies analyzed in this research are from Canada.
The authors of this study identified four major themes regarding caregivers’ experiences in supporting individuals with FASD:
Living and coping with FASD
Caregivers identified that caring for an individual with FASD can have a negative effect on their well-being, as well as the family relationships and dynamics. The stress caregivers experience could be a result of a number of factors, including limited professional supports, lack of knowledge or training regarding an FASD diagnosis, and managing comorbid disabilities and conditions. Caregivers use a number of parenting strategies in order to adapt to their family circumstances, manage their caregiver stress, and improve outcomes for their children. The future was a common area of focus for caregivers, as they expressed concern about, or hope for, what comes next for their children.
Stigma and blame
Experiences of stigma and feelings of guilt and blame were prevalent. Caregivers of individuals with FASD feel isolated and judged by the public, feel guilt for drinking during pregnancy, feel shame for being unable to meet the complex needs of their children, and perceive judgement from professionals and community members in regard to their child’s behaviour.
A formal diagnosis can help caregivers and individuals with FASD better understand their unique needs and challenges and can help caregivers access specialized supports they may not have previously had access to. However, caregivers found that getting a diagnosis for their child was extremely difficult as a result of lack of awareness, training, or understanding amongst health care professionals. Caregivers, as a result, felt that they had unrealistic expectations for their children because they were not provided with a good understanding of FASD.
The theme of support was common, related to caregivers receiving formal and informal supports that were needed to assist them in caring for an individual with FASD. Formal supports often included referrals to services, medications, counselling for caregivers and caregiver support groups. Informal supports involved physical assistance and emotional support from spouses and family members. Caregivers believe that effective supports can improve outcomes for families, help children with FASD transition to adulthood, and help individuals with FASD achieve some level of independence. However, the researchers identified that a lack of understanding of FASD in the health care and social services community significantly impacted the supports caregivers had access to.
- Improve training and guidance and increase understanding of prenatal alcohol exposure and FASD among health care professionals and related health and social service providers;
- Training on FASD prevention, diagnosis, and support should be integrated into postsecondary studies and should be provided as part of professional development; and
- Worldwide, FASD diagnostic guidelines should follow the Canadian guidelines as a model and incorporate guidelines that diagnose the full range of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. These guidelines should be made available to all health care practitioners and emphasize the need for testing to exclude other disorders.
Take home message
Caregivers and families experience numerous and significant impacts in relation to understanding FASD, obtaining an FASD diagnosis, and managing and supporting individuals with FASD through their lifetime. A lack of understanding by health care and social service providers was considered a key barrier to accessing effective resources and supports. Improved training, resources, and FASD diagnostic guidelines for health care practitioners is essential for improving outcomes for individuals, caregivers, and families.
Authors: Nikolina Angelova, Juliet Brown, Naomi Fearns, Sarah Harley, Moray Nairn
Organization: Healthcare Improvement Scotland
Date: January 2019
Click here to read the full report
Unfortunately, the illness is often portrayed as a choice — a misunderstanding that can further stigmatize people who struggle with substance use and addiction.
What is addiction?
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) defines addiction as the presence of four things: cravings, loss of control of amount or frequency of use, compulsion to use and use despite the consequences.
The exact science remains unclear, but doctors believe there are a region and a circuit in the human brain “listening for when we engage in highly rewarding events,” said Hellemans.
Most addictive substances target this system.
“Whether you shoot heroin or drink alcohol, smoke nicotine or cannabis, they all start to activate that pathway,” Hellemans said. “It translates to us feeling good.”
In people who develop addiction, doctors believe their “baseline reward pathway activation” is low.
Click here for the full story.
This year NAAW is from November 25 to December 1 and the theme is Stigma Ends with Me. With your help, we want to increase understanding of the devastating stigma associated with substance use and addiction and its impact on the well-being of people touched by this health issue.
CCSA’s National Addictions Awareness Week (NAAW) highlights issues and solutions to help address alcohol- and other drug-related harm. It provides an opportunity for Canadians to learn more about prevention, to talk about treatment and recovery, and to bring forward solutions for change.
For more information please visit: https://www.ccsa.ca/national-addictions-awareness-week
The NW Peace FASD Network will be doing several presentations around the region. We will also be sponsoring a Mocktail event at Grande Prairie Regional College on November 27th from 11-1.