A new campaign is helping women who are pregnant or who are trying to conceive stay away from liquor.
Dry 9, created by the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC), provides resources and information on alcohol and pregnancy.
Michelle Hynes-Dawson, spokesperson with the AGLC, says the commission decided to launch the campaign ahead of the holiday season.
“We wanted to do it around Christmas,” she said. “It can be tough. There’s a lot of celebrating, there’s a lot of parties, there’s New Year's Eve, and there’s a lot of alcohol flowing this time of year.”
The campaign launched on Dec. 5 featuring three humorous videos directed at the older generation, the persistent friend and the co-parent. Each video features a skit where the viewer is encouraged to support the expectant mother.
The direction behind each one was determined by common challenges created by each group. Hynes-Dawson said older generations typically say ‘I drank when I was pregnant and my kids turned out alright,’ while friends and co-parents can push sips of alcoholic beverages on expectant mothers.
For women who are struggling under the pressure to drink, they can send videos to their loved ones for support.
Hynes-Dawson said when it comes to alcohol consumption, not enough research is available to determine how much alcohol can be consumed before it affects the fetus.
“There’s a lot of mixed information out there within the medical community and otherwise around how much is safe and how much is not safe. Our message here is that there’s no amount of alcohol that’s safe,” she said.
“Alcohol impacts everybody differently, so it would impact fetuses differently.”
Studies have proven that alcohol can cause birth defects, called Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Over 500 babies are born in Alberta each year with FASD.
While the number may seem startling, Hynes-Dawson says it’s probably a lot higher.
“The statistics around FASD are tough because there’s a lot of having to self-identify for women,” she said. “Children can be five or six years old before they’re even starting to show signs of FASD. That’s why it’s called Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, because the disorder can be a wide range of impacts on a full spectrum.”
While the AGLC has typically launched a campaign each September on abstaining from alcohol while pregnant, this year the organization wanted to do something different.
“Our past campaigns were effective in raising awareness with Albertans on what FASD is,” she said. “But they weren’t as effective as we hoped about actually changing the behaviour.”
Campaigns typically have an end date, but the Dry 9 will continue into the future. Hynes-Dawson said she hopes it gains momentum over the years, and that it’s already grabbed international attention from Australia and other parts of the world.
“It’s really exciting that in just a couple of days we’re getting international attention around the program,” she said.
The movement also encourages friends and family to band together and take a pledge to stay away from liquor for nine months as a group. By not participating in drinking, the group will help support expectant mothers to also stay “dry”.
Those who join the movement will receive: a free Dry 9 T-shirt, monthly tips on how to handle situations with alcohol, facts on stages of baby development, mocktail of the month recipes and Dry 9 videos to send to family, friends and spouses.
Participants can also go to http://dry9.ca, which is an online community forum for people to share tips, ideas and support each other.