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International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Awareness Day is commemorated annually on September 9th in nations across the globe as a reminder that there is no "safe" level of drinking while pregnant. FASD is 100% irreversible, BUT the good news is that it is also 100% preventable.

What causes Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder?

Alcohol readily passes through the placenta, the organ of the body that provides nourishment to the developing fetus (unborn baby) during pregnancy. The developing cells of the fetus can be harmed by alcohol's negative effects, resulting in irreversible abnormalities. Throughout pregnancy, the fetus is therefore at risk. Because the brain begins growing shortly after conception, it is particularly vulnerable to irreversible brain injury. Due to the fact that the majority of pregnancies in South Africa are unplanned, women frequently continue to drink alcohol while pregnant. FASD is estimated to impact at least three million of the population in South Africa.

How can Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder be prevented?

To avoid the risk of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, women should abstain from alcohol throughout pregnancy and while attempting to conceive. There is no known safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy or while attempting to conceive in order to avoid the dangers. Alcohol in any quantity can be harmful to an unborn baby.

  • If you believe your child may be suffering from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, take them to a doctor or clinic immediately. If the health care provider is unable to assist you, request a referral to a peadiatrician or a Human Genetics clinic at a district or provincial hospital.

  • If you believe you may have an alcohol addiction or you are experiencing difficulty reducing your drinking, get help from your clinic, doctor, social worker, or church/religious leader.

  • Avoid alcohol if you are a light or social drinker and planning a pregnancy.

  • It is critical to recognise that pregnant women do not drink to damage their unborn infants on purpose. Pregnant women who use alcohol frequently report doing so to cope with stress (self-medication) or as a result of pressure to do so from their partners (the baby’s father), family members, and friends. Additionally, some report receiving inaccurate information from health practitioners. Therefore, partners, family members, and friends are responsible for spreading the message of "no alcohol during pregnancy" and encouraging pregnant women in their networks to refrain from alcohol consumption.

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