Booze and Bumps cultivates FASD awareness with wit and utmost seriousness

September 8, 2017

Amy Lockwood was nearly two months pregnant when her neighbourhood had a block party. Every half hour, families would migrate from one house to the next, where a different appetizer and alcoholic beverage were served.

At each house, Amy declined a drink, reminding her neighbours that she was pregnant. She has strong personal connections with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), and knew the dangers of drinking while pregnant. But every time, she was met with a response that shocked her.

“Many of the women would say to me, ‘you’re not even showing yet you can have a drink’ or, ‘just a bit of alcohol is okay,’” says Lockwood. “These were all highly educated and well-intentioned women with beautiful children …it’s just very alarming how many people are so misinformed.”

Unfortunately, inaccurate information surrounding the dangers of drinking while pregnant is all too common. According to James Reynolds—Deputy Scientific Director for Kids Brain Health Network—many women are told by medical professionals as well as their peers that drinking in moderation during pregnancy is okay, despite strong evidence suggesting any amount of alcohol can be harmful.

“Canada’s drinking guidelines clearly recommend that women abstain from drinking alcohol during pregnancy, but it’s obviously not penetrating because women are still getting mixed messages,” he says. “When you look at Amy’s story of being pressured to drink while she’s pregnant, that simply shouldn’t be happening.”
Now almost five months pregnant, Amy has organized an event to raise awareness about the dangers of drinking during pregnancy. Booze and Bumps will be a night of stand-up comedy and skits, with discussions about FASD interspersed throughout the show. It is one of the many events that will be held across the country around September 9th in recognition of International FASD Awareness Day. All proceeds will benefit the Fetal Alcohol Resource Program (FARP), which was launched two years ago with continued support from the Network.

“From what I am seeing no one really talks about [FASD] and I feel a really strong sense of responsibility to share what I know,” says Amy. “Since being pregnant I’ve heard so much about prenatal classes and vaccines, but I haven’t really seen or heard anything on what alcohol can do to a developing fetus.”

It’s estimated that as many as 250,000 Canadian children have FASD, and evidence suggests the disorder affects all parts of the body. Reynolds says it’s important for everyone to be aware of FASD—not just pregnant women or those looking to get pregnant—so that children and families living with the disorder can have access to the best possible resources. Holding events like Booze and Bumps is one way to raise awareness and encourage a shift from viewing this as a woman’s issue, to accepting it as a societal issue.

“If we aren’t aware of this issue and don’t see how it affects us more globally, then we will continue to fail [people living with FASD],” says Reynolds. “Awareness has been a central component of the FASD research program within the Network from day one.”

The FARP team is hoping awareness campaigns will also remove some of the stigma associated with FASD, which silences the conversation and often discourages families from seeking the help they need. As for Amy, her goal is simple. “I want to let as many women know before they have children or try to have children, that there’s no safe amount of alcohol,” she says. “It sounds so simple but it’s the one thing people just aren’t talking about.”