Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or FAS is found in children whose mothers used alcohol during their pregnancy.
The syndrome is characterised by a series of symptoms which includes brain damage and stunted growth.
When a pregnant woman uses alcohol, it is taken up into her bloodstream. The alcohol reaches the womb within 20 minutes and is toxic to the baby’s cells.
The baby’s organs can be permanently damaged by the alcohol and the developing brain is especially vulnerable. Most children diagnosed with FAS have a mild to serious degree of brain damage.
Where healthy children have an average IQ of 100, a child with FAS has an IQ of between 65 and 75.
The damage is permanent, but can be prevented.
Look at the difference between a normal brain (left) and a brain affected by alcohol (right).
Some facts about Foetal Alcohol Syndrome
Is the father also responsible?
- It is vital that the father supports the mother of his unborn child during her pregnancy.
- Both parents are responsible for the healthy development of their unborn baby.
- You can help the mother of your unborn baby by creating an alcohol-free environment during her pregnancy.
- With your support she will manage not to drink any alcohol during her pregnancy.
What is the effect of alcohol on an unborn baby?
Alcohol during pregnancy:
- stunts growth;
- damages the organs, especially the brain, heart, eyes and ears;
- influences the forming of the baby’s face; and
- causes brain damage.
A person with FAS experiences problems with relationships, learning, motor development, accounting skills, abstract thinking and understanding of cause and effect.
Is FAS common?
FAS is a huge problem all over the world. South Africa has the highest reported incidence in the world and FAS is 30 to 50 times more common than Down’s Syndrome.
How much alcohol may be used during pregnancy?
Each person’s body processes alcohol differently and a woman’s metabolism changes when she falls pregnant. It is therefore difficult to predict how your body will react to alcohol. You should; however, keep in mind that the unborn baby’s liver is still busy developing and is not equipped to process alcohol. The answer is therefore that no alcohol during pregnancy is safe. Even one glass can cause permanent damage.