Every week in Minnesota, more than 100 babies are born with a greater risk of developing brain damage. All because their mothers decided to drink alcohol during their pregnancies.

It’s a tragic, preventable problem that begs for more awareness, action and solutions. And now is the time to do it.

September is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders month. To mark the occasion, the Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (MOFAS) is trying to educate more women on the importance of not drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

FASD can only be caused by a woman drinking alcohol while pregnant.

Despite myths, there is no scientific evidence available that sets a “safe” amount of alcohol that will not affect the developing fetus.

The U.S. Surgeon General, the Center for Disease Control, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists all advise pregnant women and women who could become pregnant, to abstain completely from alcohol during pregnancy.

Although the warnings are clear, not enough pregnant mothers are heeding them.

An estimated 5,367 babies are born each year in Minnesota with some level of prenatal alcohol exposure, which can lead to brain damage and lifelong struggles.

MOFAS encourages all pregnant women and women trying to get pregnant to remember the numbers, 0-4-9 – zero alcohol for nine months.

In Minnesota, nearly half of all pregnancies are unplanned, and many women do not know they are pregnant for up to four to six weeks after conception.

If a woman is drinking alcohol during pregnancy, it is never too late to stop drinking, according to MOFAS. Brain growth takes place throughout pregnancy, so the sooner a woman stops drinking the safer it will be for her and her baby.

If a woman cannot stop drinking, MOFAS encourages them to get help through a health care provider, local Alcoholics Anonymous, or other local treatment center.

Couples need to talk about this. Family members and friends of expectant mothers need to talk about this. Health care providers should ask every woman, every time about their alcohol use and provide information on FASD as part of preventive medicine.

For more information on alcohol use during pregnancy, go to www.mofas.org.

Think about those 5,357 babies and remember those three numbers: 0-4-9.