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  • Lauri Beekmann

The ninth day of the ninth month has a symbolic meaning for every child

05.09.2022 - Pregnancy is the reason why many people give up alcohol and fortunately this special situation, even if it is only for these nine months, changes the behaviour of many women. And also the behaviour of men who want to support their partner and the mother of their future child.

Alcohol-induced birth defects were not officially defined as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome until 1973 by two US dysmorphologists, Kenneth Lyons Jones and David Weyhe Smith, at the University of Washington. Nine years later, under the leadership of Dr Sterling Clarren, it was confirmed that alcohol is a teratogen, a substance that can cause abnormalities in the developing fetal brain.

But the negative effects of alcohol during pregnancy have actually been described by very old sources. Greek, Roman and Talmudic writings all indicate that this negative link between drinking alcohol and harm to the child was feared. Plato writes in his fourth-century B.C. Laws: "Drinking to excess is a practice that is nowhere seemly [...] nor yet safe. [...] It behooves both bride and bridegroom to be sober [...] in order to ensure, as far as possible, in every case that the child that is begotten may be sprung from the loins of sober parents." The sixth-century A.D. Talmud cautions, "One who drinks intoxicating liquor will have ungainly children."

One could hope that as these ancient thinkers understood the negative effect of alcohol, so will every future mother in this age of scientific knowledge.

September is Global FASD Awareness Month, and the ninth day of the ninth month is the high point of that month. Various studies show that although it will be 50 years next year since the recognition of the fetal alcohol syndrome, public awareness is still unacceptably low.

Although awareness is a necessary prerequisite for informed behaviour change, it is not enough. How many unhealthy factors are we aware of, yet indifferent to? While people of this age are the most knowledgeable about health and healthy lifestyles in human history, they do not reflect this knowledge in their practical lives. Awareness alone is not enough.

We tolerate and enjoy different habits and things that we know very well can do us considerable harm in the long run. We simply make a decision, based on the moment, that the risk or even the certain ultimate harm is worth the momentary well-being or added value. It is a conscious decision. But is it?

Those who are young may think that living an unhealthy party lifestyle is worth risking an associated illness in their later years. Realistically, they don't know what it is like to live with them until they suffer liver damage or cancer.

The situation is even more complicated when the potential harm affects someone else. Whether the current pleasure or benefit I am experiencing is worth the risk of someone else suffering in the long run. In articles and forums, there is the occasional suggestion that a regular glass of wine is better than a stressed pregnancy. Unfortunately, there is no safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy. How do you weigh the momentary discomfort and indulgence of an old habit against the risk of the baby suffering a lifetime of damage? It is true that stress is also something that needs to be managed, but there are certainly better alternatives to alcohol.

Alcohol and pregnancy do not mix. As soon as you start planning a baby, you should give up alcohol. There are studies that also point to the negative effects of a man's drinking, but if only to support the woman, both the mother and father-to-be should abstain from alcohol. Exactly as Plato said.

Lauri Beekmann Executive director, NordAN

In this month, I encourage every organization to get involved in this issue. Here are some resources from expert organisations that you might use or get inspired by:

In addition, I would like to draw your attention to a few websites from our area:

Foreningen FASD -

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