A Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder [FASD] expert says the estimate that 3 to 5 percent of live births in New Zealand having the disorder isn’t pulled out of thin air.
Speaking on RadioLIVE’s Morning Talk, Paediatric Neuropsycholologist Dr Valerie McGinn says the figures used in New Zealand are based upon the amount of alcohol consumed here.
This is around three times the amount consumed in a country like Canada.
Dr McGinn says what isn’t known is the number of New Zealanders living with FASD.
“It’s not a notifiable condition, and also we don’t have the diagnostic capacity in New Zealand either, to work it out."
"Nevertheless, we don’t need to know how many children have FASD to know that we need to do something about it," Dr McGinn says.
"The reason we don't know is because the government's not facing this issue."
Babies born with FASD often have irreversible intellectual and physical disabilities, behavioural problems and distinct facial features.
A study in 2015 found almost third of Kiwi women continue to drink alcohol during their first trimester, and 11 percent right up until birth.
Researchers looked at data collected in the long-running Growing Up in New Zealand study. They found while 71 percent of women drank alcohol before becoming pregnant, 23 percent continued through the first trimester and 13 percent through the entire pregnancy.
The Ministry of Health says there is no known safe level of drinking, and recommends women abstain from alcohol from the time they decide to have a baby through conception and the entire pregnancy.
Listen to the full interview with Dr Valerie McGinn above.
Morning Talk with Sean Plunkett in for Mark Sainsbury, 9am - 12pm Weekdays and streaming live on 'rova' channel 9 - available on Android and iPhone.