Healthy Living

Feb 12, 2014 1:54 PM by Keli Moore, KSBY

Fetal alcohol sydrome: Drinking alcohol while pregnant

Alcohol is the most damaging substance someone can use during a pregnancy, more than methamphetamine, cocaine, or heroin, according to Central Coast health professionals.

Drinking while pregnant is the cause of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or FAS. It can cause birth defects, damage a baby's nervous system, and cause psychological problems, but it's a topic often ignored.

"I think it's brushed under the rug in this community," Jennifer Stone said.

Stone is a mom of four, but she hasn't always been able to be the mom she is to them today.

"In 2009, my children were removed from me because I was selling drugs out of my home and had a serious drug addiction for about 13 years," Stone said.

She grew up on the Central Coast in a home full of addicts. She has walked the walked -- doing time in jail and the road to recovery -- getting sober. Today, Stone wants to share her struggles to create change for other women.

"I'm the parent partner with Beginnings, and I work with the moms who either have a drug problem, have a baby that's been born addicted to drugs, or just parents who need mentoring," Stone explained.

Stone said she drank up until five days before her third child was born, putting her daughter at risk of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

"Fetal Alcohol Syndrome was identified in the 1940s when the medical researchers discovered that children were born with a severe change in their face morphology," said Lisa Fraser, executive director of San Luis Obispo County Child Abuse and Prevention Counsel. "The ears lower, the eyes droop and the jawline is weak."

"They might have symptoms similar to ADHD or sometimes they even get mis-diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, so it's really a lot of neurological and developmental issues," said Devon Baird, Alpha Pregnancy & Parenting Support executive director.

Many women say in prenatal exams that they are drinking the month before they know they are pregnant, and about 80 percent of them stop after learning they're having a baby, but there is a certain percentage who don't stop for whatever reason. This is where Alpha and Beginnings step in to help.

"I almost feel like I'm giving back to someone because there was no one there when I was going through it," Stone said.

All Alpha and Beginnings services are free. Alpha's office is on Los Osos Valley road in San Luis Obispo.

Anyone can walk in without an appointment.

Click here for more information.