Michelle Rupp: Hello and welcome to this episode of AFMC TV. I’m your host, Michelle Rupp. Today we’re talking all things babies. We’re going to jump right in with one of our nurses here at AFMC, Shaneca Smith. How are you?
Shaneca Smith: Hi Michele, I’m doing great.
MR: Thank you so much for joining us this morning.
SS: Thank you for having me.
MR: You are part of an organization called None for Nine. Tell us what that’s all about.
SS: Absolutely. Arkansas Nine for Nine is a nonprofit organization that focuses on providing awareness of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, or FASDs, within Arkansas. We provide support to individuals affected by FASDs and their families.
MR: Can you give an example of an FASD? What are we talking about?
SS: Absolutely. FASD is an umbrella term that describes the range of effects in an individual whose mother drinks alcohol during pregnancy. Some of the effects include physical, mental, behavioral, or learning disabilities and those issues can also be lifelong complications for the individual.
MR: Oh wow. Okay. Let’s talk about how important a coalition like this is.
SS: Well, Michelle, it’s essential. The one thing that we want to stress is that when a woman is pregnant, she often doesn’t know for some time. So even though she may stop drinking at the early portion of her pregnancy, once she’s learned about it, most of the time, it’s many weeks on. Her baby is still at risk for FASD. Another point is that any amount of alcohol can harm a developing fetus or embryo at any time within a woman’s pregnancy. It is critical to get the word out to everyone regarding the importance of not drinking alcohol during pregnancy. Another thing, Michelle, that many people don’t realize is that of all the substances of abuse, alcohol produces the most serious neural behavioral effects on a fetus.
MR: So, we’re talking about just drinking alcohol in general. We’re not just talking about the mothers who are drinking throughout the entire nine months. We’re also talking about, as you pointed out, those moms who are, I like to call them, freshly pregnant. They don’t know that they’re pregnant and they’re out with the girls. They have a girls’ night out, and they’re having a glass of wine. No indication, no thought whatsoever that they might be pregnant. We’re talking to them too.
SS: Yes, that is the population we’re talking to because, as I stated, it doesn’t matter what amount of alcohol you may consume during pregnancy. We know that everyone metabolizes substances differently. You may have one mom who has a casual drink now and then, or you could have another mom who drinks regularly. There’s no scientific knowledge that says that because she binge drank, the baby will have an FASD. And then, because this other mother had a glass of wine, the baby’s not going to have an FASD. Any amount of alcohol can put your baby at risk of developing FASD.
MR: It’s non-discriminatory.
SS: No, it does not discriminate at all.
MR: Talk about the campaign that’s happening. How long has this campaign been going on?
SS: Well, first I must tell you how we even began all the work we’re doing. In 2008, Arkansas began its efforts to bring attention to FASDs. During that time, several key stakeholders formed a task force that included AFMC, DHS, UAMS, and many others. They were tasked with developing a project for screening, diagnosing, and providing interventions for children on the FASD spectrum. The project ended in 2012. However, out of all those agencies, several volunteers saw the need to continue the work that they were doing. Now everything that is done through Arkansas None for nine is done with volunteers. We’ve done some phenomenal work with these volunteers. We are now an actual affiliate of NOFAS, which is the national organization on fetal alcohol syndrome. We’ve worked with the CDC on training materials, and most notably, we recently helped establish alcohol warning signage for any establishment in Arkansas that sells or distributes alcohol. These signs provide a warning about consuming alcohol during pregnancy.
MR: If someone wanted to reach out for more information, is there a website they can visit?
SS: Yes. Our website is arkansasnonefornine.org. We have a Facebook page. We have a Twitter page. I will tell you, some of these efforts have paved the way for Arkansas’s first diagnostic center for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. And it’s the SDRC clinic, Specialty Diagnostic Resource Center. And you can reach out to them at arksdrc.org as well.
MR: And where is that center located? Is it in Little Rock?
SS: The center is located on the campus of UCA.
MR: Okay, so it’s in Conway. Fantastic.
SS: It’s right here in Arkansas.
MR: I had no idea that a center like that even existed. Thank you for letting us know, Shaneca. Thank you so much for joining us today.
SS: Thank you for having me, Michelle.