World Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Day: Raising Awareness

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Each year, World Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Day is commemorated on 9 September, bringing much needed awareness to the detrimental impact of the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy. 

Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) describe a range of conditions negatively affecting physical, cognitive and behavioural ability. 

The most severe of these being Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), a disorder causing critical mental disabilities, and in some cases stillbirth. 

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The Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children – an NGO assisting women and children who are or have been victims of violence – have found that many South African expectant mothers who drink are subjected to violence in intimate relationships, leading to addiction. 

 “We see many cases in which alcohol has been consumed during pregnancy. A large percentage of the women who come to us to seek shelter for themselves and their children have substance abuse problems,” says the centre's Head Social Worker, Dorothea Gertse. 

Linking alcohol abuse to the cycle of violence in relationships is at the forefront the centre’s mission in emphasising the shockingly high prevalence of FASDs in South Africa, which is 14 times higher than any other country worldwide. 

“Research has shown that alcohol can give rise to abusive behaviour, but also that many women who are abused turn to alcohol and drugs as a result,” explains Gertse, also noting that women in abusive relationships are particularly vulnerable to unplanned pregnancies. 

Visit www.saartjiebaartmancentre.org.za to learn more about services offered by the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children and how you can offer your support. 

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