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On the occasion of the International Day for the Fight against Disorders Caused by Fetal Alcoholism this September 9, Dr Denis Lamblin, pediatrician and founding president of SAF France, talks to us about this subject of health and society.
Fetal alcohol is still relevant. Do we know how many babies this concerns today in France?
Unfortunately, there are no specific studies conducted in France. But if we stick to studies carried out in equivalent countries, in terms of standard of living and consumption of alcohol and wine, we now think that at least 15,000 babies are still weakened. , every year, from birth, especially in their brains.
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What are the consequences of drinking alcohol during pregnancy?
They are multiple. First of all, if it is absorbed in the first trimester, alcohol is a source of malformations in the organs that are in full construction. These are the sequels that everyone has feared and known for a long time.
But the brain is even more sensitive to this toxin and risks being impacted throughout the three trimesters of pregnancy, then revealing later disorders, sometimes during childhood, adolescence or even adulthood, linked to the immaturity of the affected brain. It is a less visible part of fetal alcohol disorders but a real health and social problem: epilepsy, DYS disorders, learning disabilities, ASD, behavioral problems, dropping out, even delinquency can be favored by these areas brain damage during pregnancy.
Alcohol during pregnancy, whatever the dose, is a time bomb whose expression will be throughout life.
Is moderate or even very moderate consumption also a problem?
Yes, because we now know that alcohol is a toxic teratogen (which can cause malformations) much more dangerous than tobacco, for example. Compare that with taking dangerous medicine, and it will seem normal to you that a woman refuses to take even a quarter of a tablet during her pregnancy, if it poses a risk to her baby. But a glass of beer or wine is as dangerous as a quarter tablet.
Moreover, it is true that we are all unequal when it comes to alcohol, both women and babies. Sequelae can occur with very little alcohol in one woman and in another, none, with a larger dose. The rule is therefore zero alcohol for 9 months. The whole thing is not to make the woman feel guilty, but to make people aware that a drink is like a contraindicated drug.
Why is this message not heard more?
Precisely because the real sequelae on the brain are not sufficiently known to the general public. And it’s hard to do prevention when people don’t really know the root of the problem. Very few physicians, for example, address the issue of alcohol and its consequences with their patients. The State, so far, has not shown great awareness either, while this problem of toxicity is costing France a lot, in terms of health, social and even educational support in the long term. Let’s hope that this new government, which wishes to act in terms of health and prevention, will mobilize more against this avoidable scourge.
In the end, the question of alcohol during pregnancy is a question of infringement of children’s rights and equal opportunities.