Decisions involving one's health often require a lifestyle adjustment.

When the subject involves women who consume alcohol and are pregnant, the risk factor is doubled since an unborn child's future is also at stake.

Each year it's estimated that 40,000 babies – that's one in 100 babies – are born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. This term, FASD for short, describes the harmful effects that can occur in a person whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy.

When an expectant mom continues to drink, the child can have permanent physical, mental and behavioral conditions. These could include learning disabilities such as poor coordination and delayed speech development.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has designated Sept. 7-12 as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness Week to bring attention to this concern. Deputy Secretary for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Janice Kopelman said the intent is to give children the best start in life as possible, and that start begins in the womb. To assure a healthy start in life she reminds any woman of child-bearing age to monitor alcohol use and to stop drinking if she is trying to conceive.

Kopelman adds that the risks are much lower if a woman stops drinking as soon as she learns she is expecting. The state health official realizes the importance of her role to continue educating citizens about the harmful effects of FASD.

In summary, she says the bit of knowledge she shares can mean a difference in an unborn child's future.

That may seem like plain common sense advice to many of us but for a woman struggling with alcohol consumption, it is an especially sobering message which carries life-long consequences.

For more information about FASD, visit www.health.state.pa.us or call 1-877-PA-HEALTH.

By Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com