Here’s What You Should Know About Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

No, not even one drink is OK.


Ondela Mlandu |

Drinking during pregnancy is a much-debated topic: Is the occasional glass of wine okay? Or should you quit completely? The American Academy of Pediatrics stresses that during pregnancy no amount of alcohol is considered safe.

While sipping on a glass of wine might just be a moment on the lips, it can devasting effects on your unborn baby and affect your child’s development in the long run.

What is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is a physical and mental birth deficiency caused by alcohol consumption by a pregnant mother. FAS can affect the physical and mental development of a child, causing problems with their behaviour and learning.

As if that doesn’t sound scary enough, Gynaecologist and obstetrician, Dr Uviwe Petse, says South Africa has the highest prevalence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), which is 14 times above the global average.

“FASD is a collective term that includes effects and symptoms caused by drinking alcohol during pregnancy, included in FASD is fetal alcohol syndrome Which is the severe form of FASD. This causes irreversible damage to the brain and have lifelong implications and very costly to the society,” he says.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome affects women, no matter what race or which socio-economic background they come from. While FASD may not be obvious when a baby is born, it can begin to be obvious from the age of 3 years old.

Cold Hard Facts

A scary new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that more children are affected by fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs), a group of conditions caused by drinking during pregnancy, than doctors previously thought.

While the study wasn’t a local one, it did reveal some disturbing insights into FASD. The cross-sectional study assessed 13,146 first-graders in four different regions in the U.S. between 2010 and 2016, and found that at least one in 20 American kids lands somewhere in the spectrum of fetal alcohol disorders. (Doctors previously believed only one in 100 kids was affected.)

While shocking, the researchers say that number may be conservative: It could be as high as one in 10 kids.

Despite the fact that so many women are aware of the risks of drinking while pregnant, the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (CDC) reports that about one in 10 pregnant women reports using alcohol during their pregnancy.

Also worth noting: More than 3 percent of pregnant women said they engaged in binge-drinking (i.e. having four or more drinks at one time) during their pregnancy, according to the CDC.

READ MOREApparently 35 Percent Of People Think It’s Totally Fine To Drink During Pregnancy

Identifying a person with FAS

1/ Physical concerns and attributes

  • A smaller head size.
  • Abnormal facial features such as a smooth ridge between the nose and upper lip.
  • Shorter than the average height.

2/ Health concerns

  • Problems with the heart, kidneys or bone deformities and stature.
  • Vision or hearing problems.

3/ Neurological signs

  • Poor hand and eye coordination.
  • Impaired fine motor skills
  • Hyperactive behaviour.
  • Difficulty paying attention.
  • Learning disabilities.
  • Speech and language delays during development.
  • Intellectual disability or low IQ.

READ MORE6 Pre-Pregnancy Tests Every Woman Should Consider

Don’t touch the liquor

It’s simple. There is no such thing as a “safe level of consumption” when pregnant. FAS is for a lifetime and there is no cure — avoid drinking alcohol during pregnancy. There are times when women aren’t aware of their pregnancy, but it’s best to stop once you know. Early prevention can improve a child’s development.

READ MORE ON: Alcohol Health Health Conditions Pregnancy