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Pueblo forum warns of fetal alcohol dangers

Pueblo Chieftain - 2/29/2020

Feb. 28--According to experts, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are a significant problem in Pueblo, across the state, and throughout the nation.

On Thursday, a forum on the topic was held at the Arc of Pueblo to highlight what's being done to prevent these disorders as well as supporting the children and families impacted by it.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are a group of conditions that can occur in a person whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy, exposing the fetus to the substance in the womb. The effects can include physical problems and issues with behavior and learning.

According to Illuminate Colorado, a statewide nonprofit established to prevent child abuse and neglect that co-hosted the forum on Thursday, on average, 1 in 20 first-grade students in the United States have a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which equates to about one student per average classroom.

The forum, which began at 9 a.m., featured a variety of professionals and focused on recommendations for prevention and support in regards to the disorders. A panel provided more information about diagnosing a disorder, living with it, treatment, and prevention.

Other similar forums are scheduled for the spring in Cortez and Windsor.

Drinking during pregnancy can cause permanent damage to a fetus, but disorders are 100% preventable, according to experts.

The only cause of the disorders is prenatal exposure to alcohol, and if a woman does not drink alcohol while she is pregnant, her baby will not have a disorder related to alcohol.

There are three main approaches to preventing the disorders, including increasing public knowledge about the disorders through general education; targeting women at risk by screening pregnant women and women of childbearing age for alcohol use; and targeting women at highest risk through treatment of alcohol problems and strategies to encourage pregnancy prevention.

Primary care providers, such as obstetricians/gynecologists and family doctors, play a key role in preventing the disorders.

The forum on Thursday morning was attended by around 35 people.

"We had representation from both school districts, the court-appointed special advocacy program, Department of Human Services, and an advocate who was born with fetal alcohol syndrome disorder," said Stephanie Garcia, executive director of the Arc of Pueblo. "It was a great conversation on how to support children born with substance abuse exposure."

Twitter: RyanSevvy


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