1 in 3 pregnant women in SLO County drinks alcohol in first trimester, officials say

One in three pregnant women in San Luis Obispo County drinks alcohol during the first trimester, nearly twice the statewide average, according to county health experts.

It is behavior that could harm the fetus and one that health experts would like to see end. They are mobilizing to fight the behavior.

The reasons for drinking by local pregnant women are unclear and may result from them reporting their behavior more honestly to their doctors, according to Lisa Fraser of the Child Abuse Prevention Council.

The fact that San Luis Obispo County is wine country and fosters a culture where social drinking is acceptable could be another factor, she said, adding, “There are a lot of thoughts about this.”

Fraser was one of several people who spoke as the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday declared Sept. 9 as “National Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Awareness Day.” Organizers around the world chose the date because it is the ninth day of the ninth month.

Many other individuals and organizations in the county are organizing events with the chief purpose of educating women that they should not drink at all during pregnancy. If they do, they could harm their children for life.

“When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, it easily passes across the placenta to the fetus. Because of this, drinking alcohol can harm the baby’s development,” according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

The syndrome involves a chilling laundry list of outcomes, in the womb and after birth, including abnormal heart structure, behavior problems, learning disabilities and mental retardation.

To get the word out about the awareness day, organizers will set up an informational booth at Cuesta College on Sept. 5 and 6, and put up a “white flag display” at Cuesta and at the county courthouse between Sept. 4 and Sept. 7.

The flags represent each child who has been exposed to alcohol during pregnancy in San Luis Obispo County since 2004.