Ireland needs a new education campaign about drinking during pregnancy – with one in ten babies born with foetal alcohol disorders every year.
New figures from the HSE show that around 6,000 babies are born with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) in Ireland every year.
Meanwhile, around 600 are born with the more severe Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS).
The Irish Independent reports that with around 58,500 babies born here last year – around one-in-ten is affected by pregnant drinking.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Dr Garret McGovern addiction specialist at the Priority Medical Clinic in Dublin explained what can happen.
“Foetal alcohol syndrome is a very, very serious disorder where the mother’s maternal drinking is usually quite heavy and at the more severe end of the scale,” he said.
“Now it can vary; some pregnancies may be affected by lesser amounts of alcohol.”
He said FASD is much more common – with symptoms that are not always detected at birth.
“Sometimes it is presented at birth,” he said. “So, they will get very distinct facial features and there are also heart problems and they can be present from birth.
“The ones that happen with foetal alcohol spectrum are usually later on – so sleeping problems, attention problems, learning problems and IQ problems.
“They are not necessarily going to be present at birth at all and it won’t even be picked up by the hospital.”
He said there is a “lot of ignorance out there” when it come to drinking while pregnant – and called for more education about the dangers.
“I think we really do need an educational piece around this,” he said. “I think there is a lot of ignorance out there.
“There are a lot of pregnant women who think they can drink some amount of alcohol and I don’t think there is any safe amount of alcohol in pregnancy.
“I think a lot of women may not have a good measure in their own mind about what overdoing alcohol is.
“Sometimes people look at alcohol problems in terms of whether they life is unravelling in some way and that is where it is very subtle – your life won’t be unravelling.”
Dr McGovern said Ireland has a “huge problem” with alcohol in general and called for education campaigns to target younger people.
The Word Health Organisation estimates that Ireland has the third-highest rate of FASD in the world, at 47.5 per 1,000.
The figures were released in response to a Parliamentary Question from Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín.