Learning about FASD prevention in Alberta

“There is no other chemical that we can ingest that is more dangerous for an unborn baby than alcohol”. Then why is there a prevalence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD)? Why do see more than 450 new cases a year in Alberta? I set out to find the answers to these questions. They’ve stumped me for a long time because I’ve never had alcohol. Ever.

You might be wondering why I, the writer, wants to learn about FASD when it supposedly doesn’t affect me. The reason is I want to be an informed member of a society where FASD is a recurring problem. Additionally, I am pursuing a career in health, where addiction and FASD are bound to come up in patient interactions.

Currently, I’m sitting on a plane headed for New York where I will be attending a wedding of a distant relative. Even in a wedding situation, I will not be interacting with alcohol nor is anyone who will attend the wedding. Now, you might be sure that I am a Muslim and this is true. Muslims don’t drink. It’s a fundamental part of our religion. Now you can see why I chose FASD prevention to be my STRETCH – I will definitely be stretched beyond my comfort zone.

If I decide to pursue my passion and become a physician I want to be able to understand all of my patients even the ones affected by FASD. I cannot let my abstinence from alcohol be a limiting factor in my practice. That’s why I want to learn about FASD as the chances of interacting with it outside of this project are quite low.

Once I am back in Edmonton, I will work with the Parent-Child Assistance Program (PCAP) to learn about prevention in Alberta and what role I can play in it. This will be the hands-on learning experience. In order for me to learn about prevention, I thought it necessary to be knowledgeable in FASD first, and this started back in May.

I began by reading and compiling articles for a resource library on FASD and prevention. Then I moved on to watching YouTube videos on FASD and finally, I came across the gold standard of FASD prevention in Alberta, the Provincial learning series on FASD prevention. These were enlightening and engaging which made them a delight to watch. They were at least 100 minutes in length but the time went by quick.

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I can only thank Dr. Jacqueline Pei for pointing me in the right direction for both PCAP and the provincial learning series. Also, for being there whenever I had questions and concerns. Now I want to share some thoughts on what I’ve learned so far.

I learned that abuse, trauma, and demographics can be a factor in addiction and consequently FASD for some individuals. 50% percent of pregnancies are unplanned and women might not know that they are pregnant early on in their pregnancy. In a society where drinking is so common, this can be a problem, especially because the most vulnerable time frame for brain development is the first few weeks, although the nervous system continues to change throughout a lifetime.  

By: Midhat Rizvi


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