September is Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder month – a month dedicated to the awareness of the impact alcohol has on pregnancy and how FAS can be prevented.
On 9 September, it’s International Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Day – a day marked to help create awareness about FAS, which affects many communities in South Africa. Each year at nine minutes past nine on the ninth day of the ninth month, our government draws attention to the fact that women should not drink alcohol for nine months while pregnant.
What exactly is Foetal Alcohol Syndrome?
According to Gov.za, the alcohol the mother drinks enters the unborn baby’s bloodstream causing damage to the foetus. Such damage is permanent and irreversible. Aware.org – which offers help and guidelines for those struggling with alcohol addiction and dependency – states that: Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a condition that arises when a mother consumes alcohol during her pregnancy.
Alcohol easily passes through the placenta which is the organ of the body that sustains a baby during pregnancy. The developing cells of the foetus (unborn baby) can be damaged due to the harmful effects of alcohol, leading to severe defects which are not curable. The foetus is at risk during the entire pregnancy period. Since the brain starts developing soon after conception, the brain is especially vulnerable, leading to permanent brain damage. Aware.org claims that three-million South Africans are affected.
What are the actual symptoms or effects?
Alcohol use during pregnancy is a leading cause worldwide of preventable birth defects and developmental disabilities in children, according to Aware.org. Physical signs or symptoms may include:
1. Growth stunting
2. A smaller-than-normal head circumference
3. Organ damage
4. Facial features such as small eyes, a thin upper lip and a smooth philtrum
5. Delayed development, such as speech and language delays
6. Hyperactivity and / or attention problems
7. Difficulty in understanding cause-and-effect of behaviour; poor reasoning and judgement
8. Impulse-control challenges; impulsive behaviour
9. Poor memory
10. Vision or hearing problems
11. Interpersonal relationship problems
How to prevent FAS?
According to the CDC, There is no known safe amount of alcohol that women can drink during pregnancy or when trying to get pregnant. There is also no safe time to drink during pregnancy. Alcohol can cause problems for a developing baby throughout pregnancy, including before a woman knows she’s pregnant. All types of alcohol are equally harmful, including lower-alcohol drinks, like beer and cider.
1. Stop drinking alcohol if you are thinking of falling pregnant.
2. Stop drinking alcohol if you are pregnant.
3. If you’re struggling to stop drinking alcohol, seek professional help.
Contact your doctor if you have any questions or concerns regarding alcohol use, dependency or if you suspect your child or someone you know is struggling with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome.