Your doctor has told you that you’re pregnant. Congratulations! Celebrate with friends and family into the early hours of the morning…but don’t drink any alcohol; consumption of alcohol can cause irreparable damage to your unborn baby.
In South Africa, it’s reported that approximately 20% of the population is affected by foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) during pregnancy. Furthermore, according to an article published in ScienceDirect, studies have discovered that ‘in rural South Africa, up to 28% of children have a foetal alcohol syndrome disorder)’ – these are frightening statistics.
Foetal alcohol syndrome
Drinking during pregnancy can lead to foetal alcohol syndrome. Essentially, alcohol can easily pass across the placenta. The foetus doesn’t process alcohol the same way as an adult; it’s much more concentrated, consequently inhibiting the amount of nutrition, as well as oxygen, required for healthy development. The Centre for Disease Control sums it up perfectly, ‘When you drink, your baby drinks.’
FAS causes mental and physical damage to the unborn baby. It’s been found that individuals suffering from FAS may have problems with their vision, hearing, memory, attention span as well as trouble with communication.
Irreversible damage can be caused within the first two weeks of pregnancy –you may not even know you’re pregnant at this point. Therefore, it’s recommended that you don’t drink if you’re sexually active and are not using a method of birth control.
Symptoms of FAS include
- A small head
- A smooth ridge between the upper lip and nose, small and wide-set eyes
- Abnormal facial features
- Below average height and weight
- Poor coordination
- poor judgment
- Problems seeing or hearing
- Intellectual disability
- Heart problems
- Kidney defects and abnormalities
Treatment for foetal alcohol syndrome
If you have been drinking during your pregnancy and give birth to a baby with foetal alcohol syndrome, it’s essential that you have a discussion with your doctor about the different types of treatment.
It all starts at home
A stable and loving home is crucial. Children with FAS have the propensity to suffer from violent outbreaks and substance abuse as they get older if they experience it in the home.
Due to the symptoms, medication may be necessary. Doctors may prescribe:
- Antidepressants to treat problems with sadness and negativity
- Stimulants to treat lack of focus, hyperactivity, and other behavioral problems
- Neuroleptics to treat anxiety and aggression
- Drugs to treat anxiety
How you can prevent foetal alcohol syndrome
It’s very simple: please don’t drink alcohol when you’re pregnant. Just as drinking and driving has potentially fatal consequences, so does drinking while pregnant – for you and your baby.
Remember that alcohol can affect the foetus’ development during the first 2 weeks of pregnancy, so if you’re planning to become pregnant, refrain from drinking alcohol.
How Marie Stopes can help you
Marie Stopes South Africa is the country’s largest non-profit provider of sexual and reproductive healthcare services. If you wish to terminate a pregnancy, don’t feel ashamed, we are able to perform safe abortions at our clinics.
In South Africa, we operate 17 centres across 7 provinces and are a Section 21 non-profit organisation recognised for the quality of our clinical services and our non-judgmental, client-friendly approach.
At Marie Stopes South Africa, your sexual and reproductive health is our priority and we are happy to answer any questions you may have. To make an appointment online or call us on 0800 11 77 85.