A new film about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) NO ALCOHOL, NO RISK: information for midwives, has been a viral success!
Launched in May 2012, the film received wide coverage in both traditional and social media, immediately prompting enquiries from maternity health care professionals in the UK and overseas.
Specifically aimed at midwives, the film follows a birth mother with a child with suspected FASD, a midwife and a pregnant woman who is drinking low levels of alcohol. Part of a three year project to train midwives across the country about FASD, the 26 minute film focuses on the risks of alcohol consumption during pregnancy and aims to empower midwives with the confidence to support pregnant women in avoiding alcohol.
The film also gained international recognition when it won a US Accolade documentary film award of merit earlier this year.
Susan Fleisher, who founded NOFAS-UK in 2003, describes her involvement in the film and how she came to be involved in raising awareness of FASD to both parents and health care professionals.
My personal FASD journey was inspired by my adorable daughter. I adopted Addie when she was three. She had learning difficulties, which I attributed to her difficult start in life. Then, when Addie was 11 I attended a conference for adoptive parents.
That was when I learned about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and how alcohol consumption in pregnancy could cause lifelong alcohol related brain damage. I learned that children with FAS have a smaller head circumference because alcohol kills brain cells in the fetus. My heart sank. I knew Addie’s head circumference was small because I had been to all our local bicycle shops and no one had a children’s bicycle helmet small enough for Addie.
I took Addie to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London and she was diagnosed with Fetal* Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). I was devastated to learn that my adorable daughter might never reach her full potential or lead a normal life.
Since then we have ridden an emotional rollercoaster. The journey has become smoother each year as both Addie and I have educated ourselves and found wonderful support. Though there are many tragic true FASD stories, more people with FAS and FASD are finding support and positive paths.
When I got Addie’s diagnosis there was very little information in the UK. So I began going to conferences overseas. In 2003 I produced A CHILD FOR LIFE, a documentary film about Fetal* Alcohol Syndrome. Our Patron, Celia Atkin, funded the film and its distribution to all 4609 secondary schools in the UK. The aim of the film was to educate teenagers about the risks of unwanted pregnancy and the consequences of drinking during pregnancy. In the film doctors, mums who drank during pregnancy and their children who have FAS/D share their experiences. When I made the film, British families were reluctant to come forward, so most of the families interviewed are from the US or Canada.
We also knew we needed medical evidence for our work, and Lord Mitchell agreed to fund our FASD Medical Advisory Panel because he knew Addie and saw her challenges. Lord Mitchell also led four debates in the House of Lords and helped us raise FASD awareness in the government.
I founded NOFAS-UK in 2003 in affiliation with NOFAS in the US. At the time there was only one other UK charity, FASAware, founded by Gloria Armistead, also an adoptive mother of a child with FAS.
Since then we have formed affiliations with medical and academic institutions. Other FASD charities have come on the scene. FASD is getting into the media and becoming more visible on the radar.
It is conservatively estimated that 1 in 100 children are born with FASD. This translates into 6000 – 7000 babies born each year in the UK.
FASD is under-recognised, widespread and preventable. Midwives are in a unique position to help prevent FASD because they are on the front line supporting pregnant women.
We have also learned from midwives that, though they knew alcohol could be harmful to the unborn child, they did not have any experience of the devastating outcomes that could occur later in life. (To see highlights of our Midwives training, go to: NOFAS Midwife Training Day – YouTube)
At our training days a birth mother tells her story and midwives learn why many children with FAS/D get adopted or go into care. Alcohol history recorded by midwives is vital for an FAS/D diagnosis, support and interventions later in life when children are no longer with their birth families. Midwives records can contribute to better life outcomes for children who didn’t get the best start in life before birth.
Most importantly, FASD training will empower midwives with evidence and confidence to support pregnant women to avoid alcohol and reduce the number of babies born with lifelong FASD disabilities.
To view NO ALCOHOL, NO RISK go to www.nofas-uk.org.
To receive a MIDWIVES INFORMATION BOOKLET, email your request to firstname.lastname@example.org stating your postal address and full contact details.
* FETAL – Medical spelling.
Contributor: Susan Fleisher, Director/Founder of NOFAS-UK
Photo credit: Susan Fleisher