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Previous National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines said that women could drink up to seven standard drinks per week. But these guidelines changed in 2009. The number is now zero. The NHMRC guidelines now state:
'Maternal alcohol consumption can harm the developing fetus or breastfeeding baby.
A. For women who are pregnant or planning on pregnancy, not drinking is the safest option
B. For women who are breastfeeding, not drinking is the safest option.'
Alcohol consumed by a pregnant woman can cause problems in her unborn baby. It can lead to spontaneous abortion or a range of disabilities known as Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD).
FASD is the umbrella term used to describe the following disorders:
Children diagnosed with FASD can have learning difficulties, behavioural problems, language, delayed social or motor skills, impaired memory and attention deficits. There is no cure. Treatment is focused on mental health and medical services to manage these lifelong disabilities. Australia does not have nationally-agreed diagnostic criteria or guidelines, although there is one in the process of being developed. FASD is usually diagnosed by a multi-disciplinary team of health professionals.
Besides the lack of a national diagnostic tool, it is difficult to accurately diagnose FASD for several reasons:
FASD is not recognised as an official disability in Australia, making access to government support and assistance extremely difficult. Advocates have submitted recommendations for FASD to be recognised as a disability so carers can automatically receive the Carer Allowance. The Rudd government announced a $20 million Commonwealth Action Plan earlier this year. The Abbott Government says it is reviewing the funding.