Alcohol can harm your baby

2019-07-10 06:02

PREGNANT and boozing?

Stop! Your unborn baby’s health is at risk.

While SA has the highest reported Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders rates in the world, some women are still unaware of the harmful effects of alcohol on the unborn baby and the effects of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.

Dr Leana Olivier of the Foundation for Alcohol Related Research said that ignorance is one of the reasons women continue to drink while pregnant. She said that one of the conditions in the spectrum of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders is Foetal Alcohol Syndrome.

“Research indicates that even small amounts of alcohol can cause harm to unborn babies.

A woman therefore does not have to be an alcoholic or a heavy drinker to have a child with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders,” said Olivier.

If a foetus is exposed to alcohol, it can cause damage to any of its organs. The brain is especially vulnerable since it develops throughout pregnancy, she said.

Individuals born with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders can therefore have organ damage to the brain, eyes, ears, kidneys or heart. They always have some form of brain damage which presents as life-long learning and behavioural problems.

“This often leads to developmental delays, poor scholastic performance, early school drop-out and difficulties coping with normal day-to-day living and the world of work. Some individuals might be so severely affected that they need constant supervision and support,” she said.

Spokesperson for the KZN Health Department, Ncumisa Mafunda, said: “Drinking alcohol when pregnant carries a significant risk to the unborn baby because alcohol easily crosses the placental barrier, thus passing from mother to child.

Women who are pregnant or attempting to get pregnant, or breast feeding should refrain from drinking alcohol.”

She said that depending on the level and the duration of alcohol consumed during pregnancy, the possible consequences of drinking alcohol while pregnant can vary from spontaneous abortion to premature labour, stillbirths and Foetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, said Mafunda, is thought to be the third highest cause of congenital mental retardation.

“Even moderate consumption of alcohol, of about two or three drinks per day could present a risk to the development of the baby,” she said.

She said that Foetal Alcohol Effects and Foetal Alcohol Syndrome are preventable simply by women refraining from drinking alcohol during their pregnancy.

She added that they can both impair a child’s lifetime ability to function mentally, physically and socially and to be the best that they can be.

Mafunda said those wanting to find out more can go to their local clinic or community health centre.

Research indicates that even small amounts of alcohol can cause harm to unborn babies. A woman therefore does not have to be an alcoholic or a heavy drinker to have a child with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders


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