Despite the dangers of consuming alcohol during pregnancy, the Foundation for Alcohol Related Research (FARR) reports that women often experience pressure from their partners, family and friends to use alcohol during pregnancy.
Women also share that they often used alcohol as a form of self-medication to alleviate stress and to escape from daily hardships.
Compounded with misleading messages from health staff regarding the effect of prenatal alcohol use, which often sends contradictory messages, and women believe that a few drinks during their pregnancy is fine.
No amount of alcohol is safe
Unfortunately, the truth is that no amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy. Alcohol has a teratogenic (poisonous) effect on the developing cells of the fetus, causing damage, or sometimes even preventing the development of certain cells.
During recent years there has been an increase in international concern regarding the stigmatisation of women of childbearing age and mothers of children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder FASD.
Due to the very high prevalence rates in South Africa (see the graph below) FASD is a public health concern in many communities, but unfortunately very little, if any, education is given to students in the health, education and social work sectors.
Healthy Mother Healthy Baby
FARR has been working hard for 22 years to counter this issue. In the areas where FARR is operational, pregnant women are invited to enrol in Healthy Mother Healthy Baby© Programmes. These programmes are available to all pregnant women, irrespective whether they use alcohol or not.
The aim of the programme is to provide pregnant women with information and the necessary skills to make informed decisions regarding their own health and the health of their unborn babies.
The ultimate goal is to support them to have healthier pregnancies and healthier babies.
Women who are using alcohol receive the necessary guidance and support in this regard. The programme is implemented with the support of the local Health Departments and is a huge success.
International FASD Day
Every year on 9 September International FASD Day is commemorated worldwide. There is a heavy emphasis on the number 9, a reminder of the importance of 9 alcohol-free pregnancy months.
The message for this year’s International FASD Day is “No amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy.”
For more information on FARR’s International FASD Day plans visit www.farrsa.org.za.
Stay tuned for more on FASD topics, as we'll be sharing personal and inspiring stories over the coming weeks.
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