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Article: Language is powerful.

Language is powerful.

The words we choose make a difference. We’re here to help you share important public health information in a way that’s empowering and supportive.

The three most important things.

Keep these three things in mind anytime you’re talking about alcohol-exposed pregnancies and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD):

Use person-first language, unless otherwise specified.

When talking about disabilities, we generally recommend using person-first language, unless the person you’re talking to has specified they prefer something else. Person-first language emphasizes the person first, not the disability (i.e., “a child with an FASD” rather than “an FASD kid”).

However, some people with lived experiences do not identify with person-first language. For example, many autistic people prefer “autistic” instead of “person with autism.”

Always respect someone’s identity and use the language that they find most accurate and empowering.

Be aware of language that perpetuates stigma and guilt.

Be careful not to use language that shames people who drank alcohol during pregnancy. Prenatal alcohol exposure is a complex public health issue, and there are many things that may lead to an alcohol-exposed pregnancy.

People who consume alcohol during pregnancy do not seek to harm their children, and we do not want to use language that perpetuates stigma and guilt.

Be inclusive of all people who can become pregnant.

Not everyone who can become pregnant identifies as a woman. We encourage you to use gender-neutral language as often as possible; for example, “a pregnant person” rather than a “pregnant woman.”

This can be challenging because much of the current research available refers only to “women” (those assigned female at birth) when discussing the ability to become pregnant. When citing a specific study, we recommend using the same language used in the study.

Choose words that empower.

Our guidelines are designed to help you talk about FASD and alcohol use during pregnancy in a way that’s empowering and non-stigmatizing.