Drunk girls run big risk

IAN ALLEN
Last updated 11:30 30/08/2012

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Boozy pregnant teenagers getting "munted" at the weekend don't understand the long-term damage they are doing to their unborn children, says a Marlborough youth community worker.

Drug Arm chairman Roy Ramsey, who operates an anti-alcohol street van in Marlborough's town centres on Saturday nights, said he had seen more drunk pregnant women during the past couple of months.

One pregnant woman told Mr Ramsey she wasn't hurting her child because she was drinking only red wine and not spirits, he said.

Picton woman Eleanor Bensemann, who has two teenage grandchildren with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, has called for a government campaign similar to anti-drink-driving adverts on television to raise public awareness of the condition.

Drinking even one glass of wine while pregnant was like playing the lottery with your child's life, Mrs Bensemann said.

"The effects on these children are devastating. It's very sad that because of someone else's actions they are not going to have a normal life."

Mrs Bensemann's grandchildren, one of whom she raised herself, had learning difficulties, low IQs, made poor decisions and often acted on impulse, she said.

Her grandson had severe anger problems that had got him into trouble with the law.

"That's one of the saddest things. About 60 per cent of these children end up going through the justice system where life gets even more complicated."

New Zealand would face a generation of children with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder unless the Government started to tackle the problem.

"It's not really talked about here. We talk about drink-driving but not foetal alcohol spectrum disorder. It's not really recognised in New Zealand and there isn't much help for these people unless they have an intellectual disability as well, which they don't always have."

Youth worker Mr Ramsey said he was disturbed by the number of pregnant teens drinking at the weekend. He had seen three or four drunk pregnant girls in the past two months, he said.

Mr Ramsey, who is also chairman of the Marlborough Alcohol Advisory Council, planned to lobby the group to have posters in pubs highlighting the issue.

"I would like the posters to say, ‘We don't serve children', and hopefully that will make these girls think about what they are doing," he said.

The poster campaign could coincide with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder day on September 9.

He also wanted to see the legal age to buy alcohol raised from 18 to 20.

Blenheim doctor Scott Cameron, who has accompanied Mr Ramsey in the Drug Arm street van, said Marlborough needed to support and educate young women about the dangers of drinking while pregnant.

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The symptoms, which could include abnormal physical features, were irreversible life-long conditions, Dr Cameron said.

Medical literature was unclear about what level of alcohol consumption was acceptable for pregnant women, he said.

"They are best to avoid it altogether."

- The Marlborough Express

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