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Fetal alcohol syndrome is a feminist issue : a framework for services as articulated by and for women who have given birth to alcohol affected babies Northey, Tracy Anne


Since the mid-1980's, the issue of alcohol use during pregnancy has garnered increased social work attention. Women who consume alcohol while pregnant are at risk for giving birth to babies with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and other alcohol related birth defects. Many of the recommendations regarding the prevention and treatment of alcohol use during pregnancy have been written by and for professionals. Absent from these recommendations are the perspectives of the women most closely effected by the issue. Furthermore, the efficacy of treatment and prevention are often measured in terms of fetal outcome without consideration for the woman's health and well being. In an attempt to rectify the eclipsing of women from what is said and done about pregnancy and alcohol use, in-depth interviews were conducted with eight women who have given birth to an alcohol affected baby. The mothers relay their experiences of pregnancy and birth, coping with addiction, and parenting an alcohol affected child. Throughout their trajectories the mothers make efforts to take responsibility for themselves and their children but are continually dismissed or duped by those who are in a position to help. Relationships also figure prominently as adversaries, advocates or enablers. Both pragmatics and philosophy play a role in the day to day ability of the mothers to both make ends meet and to make sense of their lives. Despite these barriers the mothers are able to exert agency and self-advocacy. The stories and recommendations that the mothers offer point to a framework for services that: is holistic and driven by the mothers themselves, provides effective interventions for children and adults who are alcohol affected, offers individualized addiction services, promotes education that is specifically geared towards professionals, and addresses the structural inequities that women face. From the perspectives of the women who have given birth to alcohol affected babies, FAS is a feminist issue.

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