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Alcohol’s tragic effect on motherhood

Written by: Allison Cooper

When *Sharon (35) was pregnant she did not know that drinking alcohol would harm her unborn baby.  

“It is very sad. My child’s brain did not develop normally. He has brain damage and is slow. He was examined by doctors and a psychologist, and they told me he has Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS),” says Sharon.

FAS is a condition in a child caused from alcohol exposure during the mother's pregnancy.

Sharon explains that before her pregnancy, she drank alcohol with her boyfriend and friends on weekends. “This is the way we all hang out here,” says Sharon, who lives in the Northern Cape.

She only found out that she was pregnant at 14 weeks.

“I didn’t plan to fall pregnant, so I did not know. When I was 16 weeks, I joined the Foundation for Alcohol Related Research’s Healthy Mother Healthy Baby Programme in our town. At that stage, I was still drinking on weekends. I did not know that alcohol could damage my baby.

“When I joined the programme, I heard about FAS. I started to drink less, but it was very difficult. My boyfriend could not understand why I did not want to drink with him and our friends, he got very angry,” says Sharon.

Sharon’s son is now almost three-years-old. Her journey is difficult. “My child needs a lot of care and I know he is not like other children. He is young, I am worried about the rest of his life, school and who will take care of him if something happens to me.”

Her message to women is to not fall pregnant if you drink and, if you do, to stop drinking immediately.

“The effect on your baby is serious, it will never recover. All the alcohol in the world is not worth what you will go through if you know that your baby is suffering because he was hurt before he was born. If you do not drink your baby will not have FAS. I know it is very difficult, because I have walked the road, but you have to do it for you, your child and your other children.

“If your boyfriend or husband does not stand by you, you have to leave him. Your child and the future is more important than a partner who does not care. I know now that my relationship with him was abusive, but I have nobody else to blame. I made these bad choices. If only I had known better.”

*Name has been changed to protect the mother’s identity.