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Warning about alcohol and pregnancy

Maple Ridge restaurants and bars now have to post ads warning of drinking while pregnant. - Colleen Flanagan/The News
Maple Ridge restaurants and bars now have to post ads warning of drinking while pregnant.
— image credit: Colleen Flanagan/The News

The district wants to do its part to get out the message, if you’re expecting and drinking – there is no safe limit.

So part of its new business licence bylaw requires bars, restaurants and U-brew stores to post signs reminding people of the above and the dangers of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

“No Safe Time. No Safe Amount,” the signs will say.

“I’m here,” it will say written across a woman’s pregnant tummy.

“Apparently, we’re the first to actually build it into the [business licence] bylaw,” said Coun. Cheryl Ashlie.

Instead of a standalone regulation requiring prenatal alcohol exposure signs, as Maple Ridge previously had, putting the rules into the business licence bylaw will make them easier to enforce.

“It’s a chronic issue. It’s still quite prevalent in our society yet,” Ashlie added.

The intent to get out the message so people become aware of the risks of boozing it up while they may be in the early stages of an unplanned pregnancy.

The change came out of the subcommittee of Maple Ridge’s substances issues and prevention committee.

The signs will be on the district’s website so restaurant or bar operators can download and print them, although initially some signs will be provided free.

Ashlie said she’s concerned about the recent trends towards binge drinking by youth.

“We have a culture that’s based on over consumption to some degree.”

Any drug can damage an unborn baby, but alcohol causes more long-lasting damage to a baby than even hard street drugs, said Allison Pooley, program director at The Asante Centre.

She feels alcohol’s solubility could be the reason it’s more harmful to developing cells.

“I think we, as a society, don’t recognize the dangers of alcohol, specifically in pregnancy.”

Pooley said one effect of drinking while pregnant that’s encountered in the clinics is something that’s impossible to calculate. It’s called “blunting” and just means that a person can’t attain what he or she may have been able to do if they hadn’t been exposed to alcohol.

“How can you measure loss of potential?”

The bylaw will only apply to restaurants or bars, but not liquor stores, which is provincial jurisdiction.

Pooley says the government has done a lot but, “Every campaign has a shelf life.

“We need to be coming up with new campaigns.”

The Ministry of Children and Family Development announced on  Sept. 9, FASD Prevention and Support Day, online tools to increase awareness.

Pooley also would like to see FASD awareness taught in schools.

“We know the cause of FASD. We know it’s preventable.

“Any time in the pregnancy that alcohol is used, it may cause harm.”

But simply focusing on prevention, also ignores all the reasons why people drink, she added. Support is needed for women who are pregnant and could be drinking. Many times the pregnancies are unplanned and women are in situations beyond their control.

The program officially launches 11 a.m. Nov. 20, at the Greg Moore Youth Centre.

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