HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Some obstetricians will tell pregnant women it's all right to have a glass of wine during pregnancy, while others will say no way -- not even one sip. OakBend Medical Center in Richmond agrees with the latter suggestion. The hospital is the first in the U.S. to adopt a prevention program to help protect children from complications caused by alcohol.
You may have noticed billboards in Fort Bend County that warn about fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
The billboards are written in English and Spanish to make the message crystal clear. This campaign is a powerful partnership between OakBend Medical Center, The Arc and Clear Channel.
"We are the only hospital, not only in Fort Bend County, but the greater Houston area and in the entire country, that is partnering with The Arc, so we are very proud to be able to participate!"
OakBend Medical Center is a non-profit community hospital that is doing its part to spread the word that women should stop drinking alcohol BEFORE even TRYING to get pregnant. They're taking the message and prevention plan beyond the billboards.
"The purpose is to educate healthcare professionals that no alcohol is appropriate in the course of pregnancy. We believe that providers and health care professionals are the most powerful representatives, who can educate folks on the issues that they face during pregnancy. We believe that healthcare settings, like a clinic, outreach program, hospital, or health fair can convey this info!"
OakBend Medical Center is also known to have the most advanced neonatal intensive care unit or NICU in Fort Bend County. Medical experts at the facility care for infants at 28 weeks gestational age.
"It's a hugely valuable source for our community," says Joe Freudenberger, chief executive officer of OakBend Medical Center. "To not be forced to drive downtown on a daily basis, we're pleased to have the opportunity to bring it into focus during this campaign to fight fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and the importance of abstaining from alcohol. If we can lower these numbers of FTSD, we won't have so many premature babies."
"We're so pleased to be part of this program which is meant to save lives and save children from damage," says Lee Vela, vice president of Clear Channel Outdoors. "It's very important that these messages get out to the general public, that's our part, to make sure these messages are seen by a lot of people."
Vela also says 700,000 people see the billboards every month and will for months to come.
Freudenberger from Oakbend is all over this mission, professionally and personally.
"With a young daughter, 25 years old and approaching child-rearing age, I want her to be aware that any amount of alcohol can do damage and not something you will see immediately," explains Freudenberger. "It's profound damage that manifests itself later in life and everybody -- my daughter, my children, are in that position! It affects folks in our hospital, our staff! It's unknown how much that single drink can do to a child. The drink goes right through the umbilical cord. It doesn't go through the bloodstream to the baby -- it's a direct conduit to the baby's system, and that is clearly not in the best interest of the baby."
No amount of alcohol has been determined safe by physicians. It is just not worth the risk. Why take the risk? When you abstain from alcohol, this FASD is 100 percent preventable," says Laura LaVigne, executive director of The Arc.
OakBend Medical Center was recognized with a prestigious award for its leadership in this campaign.
Facility leaders want to spread the word that fetal alcohol spectrum disorder can ruin a child's life plus it costs our country four billion dollars a year.