The number of people affected by foetal alcohol syndrome is three to five times more than those with HIV/Aids and it’s also the biggest cause of mental retardation in South Africa, according to the World Health Organisation.
Many women are not aware that drinking excessive amounts of alcohol during pregnancy can be harmful to their unborn babies.
Alcohol may be toxic to the foetus and can cause a number of health problems for both the mother and the unborn child including spontaneous abortion, premature labour, stillbirth and foetal alcohol syndrome, which is a variety of different birth defects.
The number of people affected by Foetal Alcohol Syndrome is three to five times more than those with HIV/Aids and it’s also the biggest cause of mental retardation in South Africa, according to the WHO.
Children who are born to mothers who drink heavily may suffer brain damage, mental handicaps, emotional and behavioural problems and birth defects, including defects of the face, heart and other organs.
It should be noted that such damage caused to an unborn child by drinking is permanent and not be cured but is 100% preventable. It is also estimated that between one and two thirds of children with special educational needs are affected by their mothers' alcohol drinking, according to the SA National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.
The commemoration of 15 October as National Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Day aims to reinforce messages about the risk of drinking alcohol during pregnancy and to encourage early prevention of foetal syndrome diseases.
Drinking a small amount of alcohol has not yet been shown to have any negative effects on a foetus, but experts warn that alcohol is a very powerful drug for an unborn baby.
Interestingly enough alcohol is considered to be more harmful to a foetus than illegal drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and even heroine, and none of those should be taken during pregnancy as they too can have an impact on the development of a growing baby.
Some experts say that pregnant women should not drink regularly or heavily, and certainly never get drunk. The World Health Organisation recommends that pregnant women and women who are trying to get pregnant should give up drinking completely.
Some studies have found that heavy drinking may be associated with infertility, particularly in women over the age of 30. Heavy drinking by the father may also contribute to problems in their offspring, including cardiovascular defects, low birth weight and immune system problems.
Those who have a drinking problem should contact one of the many support groups that are available in their areas.