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Alcohol and pregnancy don’t mix

Written by Allison Cooper

Do not drink any alcohol when you are pregnant. No amount or type of alcohol is safe during pregnancy, as it can cause permanent harm to the unborn baby. 

According to the Foundation for Alcohol Related Research’s (FARR) CEO, Dr Leana Olivier, Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is caused when an unborn baby (foetus) is exposed to alcohol.

“Alcohol has a poisonous effect on the foetus’ developing cells, which can lead to permanent damage to any organ. As the brain starts developing soon after conception, it is the most vulnerable organ. Individuals born with FASD therefore always have some form of brain damage, which leads to developmental delays, learning problems, behavioural and interpersonal challenges,” says Olivier.

“No amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy. Research indicates that even small amounts have the potential to cause damage,” she adds. This damage cannot be undone or cured.

According to FARR’s research, South Africa has the highest reported rate of FASD, with  rates as high as 28% in some communities. This is 14 times higher than the world average of 1.5% (World Health Organisation).

“The prevention of FASD is a community responsibility, not only the responsibility of women of childbearing age. Community members, fathers, family and friends should share the FASD prevention message that ‘no amount of alcohol is safe in pregnancy’,” says Olivier.

FASD affects all cultural, religious and socio-economic groups; there is no low risk.

“Women do not drink intentionally. There are many reasons why pregnant women use alcohol, including not knowing about the harmful effects, stress and peer pressure from their partner or family and friends,” says Olivier.

FARR has 13 projects and community centres in the Free State, Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Northern Cape, and its Training Academy offers training to health, social services and education professionals nationwide. It also provides support nationally, by sharing information, referrals and support groups, and runs a private diagnostic and support clinic.

“Our main focus is our Healthy Mother Healthy Baby Programme, which provides pregnant women with information and the necessary skills to make informed decisions regarding their own health and the health of their unborn babies.

Contact FARR at 021 686 2646. Leave your name and contact number and the organisation will phone you. You can also send an email to info@farrsa.org.za, visit www.farrsa.org.za or send a message via Facebook: @farr.