The Whanganui District Health Board is advising pregnant women to go alcohol free for the whole of pregnancy to best prevent foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).
As part of FASD Awareness Day on Sunday, September 9, the DHB's health promotion agency will run awareness stalls around the region throughout the month.
They will be led by health promotion officer Chester Penaflor who said foetal alcohol problems can be life-long.
"FASD lasts a lifetime, there is no cure and it is 100 per cent preventable," he said.
"The month of September is a great opportunity to appeal to our community and educate our whanau and friends about the importance of abstaining from alcohol during pregnancy."
The DHB is describing the push for FASD awareness as giving a voice to the voiceless.
"Because unborn children have no voice, we must speak on their behalf," Penaflor said.
The DHB said alcohol in the bloodstream passes easily through the placenta and the baby is exposed to the same blood alcohol level as the mother.
This can affect the baby's growth, especially the brain, with the risk of the baby having a range of life-long problems.
Drinking alcohol can also increase the chances of premature birth, or losing the baby though miscarriage or stillbirth.
In New Zealand, 19 per cent of women report drinking alcohol at some time in their pregnancy – with the rate higher (28 per cent) for women aged 15 to 24.
The first stall will be held at Trafalgar Square next Wednesday and then a week later at Countdown in Marton.
On September 19 the stall will travel to Taihape and on the 26th to Ohakune.
FASD Awareness Day was held on September 9 as a reminder of the nine months of pregnancy an unborn child should be protected from alcohol.