Mothers' guilt - the harm of drinking while pregnant video

Anne Russell and her son Seth. She admits she didn't know the dangers of drinking while pregnant.
Four Corners

Anne Russell and her son Seth. She admits she didn't know the dangers of drinking while pregnant.

Like all mothers, Anne Russell and Claire Holland love their children dearly.

However both women live with the knowledge their actions during pregnancy resulted in their children struggling with life.

Russell's son Seth, 31, and Holland's daughter Jaimie, 10, both suffer from foetal alcohol syndrome disorder (FASD). When pregnant, neither mother knew the damage their drinking was doing to the developing brains of their unborn babies.

They will share their stories on ABC's Four Corners in the hope of raising awareness of the seriousness of FASD and the need for its prevention.

"I had no idea of the detriment that drinking does, of the actual brain damage it causes. I was just torn apart with guilt and it was a really dark time," Holland tells the program of the time when her family received her Jaimie's diagnosis.

"I was just mortified at what I had done and it took a lot, it took a long time for me to really get a grip. I remember sitting there one day and just being so down on myself, self-loathing.

"I just thought, 'who is this helping? It's not helping me, it's certainly not helping Jaimie. Enough is enough, get up, use those energies'.

"I'll always have guilt, of course I will, but I refuse to sit and wallow, it just does no good."

Both Seth and Jaimie live with the realities of FASD every day. 


As a child Seth was impulsive and angry, and at just 10 years of age he spoke about killing himself.

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"I've been suicidal my whole life," he tells Four Corners.

"I look fine, I act fine, I'm well-spoken, but nobody actually knows what goes on in my head. Things that my brain does to me without me even wanting to."

Russell is horrified her actions caused Seth's difficulties. She is adamant she wasn't an alcoholic when pregnant.

"I definitely wasn't an alcoholic at the time thinking back, but I did drink socially, a few drinks," she tells the program.

Jaimie's problems were thought to be due to ADHD until her parents searched for more answers and she was diagnosed with FASD.

"We tried all going to see these different therapists and psychologists and what not, we tried all these different strategies with her behaviour, but it just didn't seem to work," Holland says.

"We knew there was something else, there had to be something else... I just knew as a mother, there was something just not right."

Jaimie's father Brad says he also shoulders some of the blame for his daughter's condition as he drank with his wife when she was pregnant.

"It was never sort of over the top, we were never sort of rolling around blind drunk ... for me, I mean like I'd get home from work, have a beer, have another beer, pour Claire a beer," he tells the programme.

FASD can vary from mild to severe and can involve learning difficulties, behavioural problems, growth defects and facial abnormalities.

Experts believe many children diagnosed with ADHD might actually have FASD and that the number of people suffering from the condition across the country could be as high as 500,000.

National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines say not drinking at all all during pregnancy is the safest option.




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