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About SickKids

March 4, 2009

HOT TOPIC - Heavy drinking during pregnancy could lead to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

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Mothers who drink heavily during pregnancy put their children at risk of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), a cognitive and developmental disorder with long-term effects. New research started at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) documents the lifetime costs to Canada of the estimated 4,000 children born with FASD every year. The study is the first to estimate the cost of FASD to the Canadian economy.

“It’s not mild drinking, it’s not the woman who had a drink when she didn’t know she was pregnant. It’s problem drinking,” said Dr. Gideon Koren, Director of the Motherisk Program at SickKids, a Senior Scientist of the SickKids Research Institute, and a co-author for the study.

Children affected by FASD show greater impulsivity and may suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Growing up, they are more likely to spend time out of class or get in trouble with the law. FASD also affects cognitive and social skills.

The study estimates that FASD costs the Canadian government $5 billion per year. “We need to better balance these costs with prevention measures, but we can’t lose sight of the things you can’t measure, the quality of life,” he said.

The Motherisk Program at SickKids is the largest centre in Canada to study the effects of alcohol in pregnancy, from the biochemical to the behavioral aspects. For more information about alcohol and pregnancy see Motherisk.org.