COUNTY – On Friday, Sept. 9 at 9 a.m. church bells will ring nine times to recognize Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Day.

The Wayne County Drug and Alcohol Commission is among the organizations working to raise awareness of the dangers of drinking alcohol while pregnant.

“This is a national campaign,” said Charlotte Myers, certified prevention specialist with the Wayne County Drug & Alcohol Commission.

“Communities and churches around the country will be ringing bells to raise awareness. The significance of the ninth day of the ninth month at 9 with the bells ringing nine times is related to the nine months of pregnancy.”

Women who are pregnant are advised to abstain from alcohol to “eliminate alcohol-exposed pregnancies,” according to the U. S. Surgeon General.

An estimated 40,000 babies are born each year with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), which describe an array of effects that take place when babies are exposed to alcohol before birth.

“There's no safe amount of alcohol that pregnant women can drink to ensure they have a healthy baby,” Myers said.

Avoiding alcohol while pregnant can save babies from being diagnosed with an FASD.

FASD impacts a child's physical, mental, behavioral and cognitive development.

According to a release, the most visible condition in the FASD realm is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), which is “characterized by growth deficiencies, central nervous system disabilities, and specific facial characteristics.”

“It's important to know there's absolutely no alcohol intake that should be considered safe during pregnancy,” said Mary Beth Dastalfo, RN clinical leader for New Beginnings at Wayne Memorial Hospital.

“That's one of the biggest things.”

She added it's also “not safer” to drink alcohol in the third trimester versus the first trimester.

“That's another misconception,” Dastalfo said.

“There's no proof of that. There's no safe trimester [for alcohol].”

Not only is an expectant mother risking the diagnosis of an FASD, prenatal alcohol exposure can increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, prematurity and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and a range of lifelong physical, behavioral and intellectual disabilities.

“All forms of alcohol pose similar risks to a developing fetus, whether it's beer, wine or alcohol,” Dastalfo said.

“It's the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation that abstinence is the only true way to prevent FASD.”

In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics said FAS is found in 6-9 cases per 1,000. The overall rate of FASD is 24-48 per 1,000.

Dastalfo added there's a “broad range” in severity for FASD that affects a baby physically, mentally and emotionally. It can also cause learning disabilities.

“There's a whole list of possible defects or impairments that they could have,” Dastalfo said.

She said the effects can range from minor to lifelong implications.

“The first thing you'll see is physical features,” Dastalfo. “The behavioral neuro-cognitive [effects] are not going to be known immediately after birth.

“They are going to be shown as the baby starts to develop.”

She added some other effects of FASD include impaired impulse control, memory skills, problem solving and reasoning.

“It can hugely affect learning, social interaction skills that are poor and difficulty with peer relations,” Dastalfo said.

She added on a local level FASD is seen, but it isn't as common as in other areas.

“It's not seen here much, but we do see it,” Dastalfo said.

Anyone seeking help to stop drinking alcohol while pregnant should talk to their doctor, Alcoholics Anonymous or the Wayne County Drug and Alcohol Commission at (570) 253-6022.

For more information on alcohol use during pregnancy and FASDs, visit www.nofas.org or www.cdc.gov/fasd.