Pregnant women urged to abstain from alcohol

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September 9 is International Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) awareness day to raises the awareness of the dangers of consuming alcohol for pregnant women.

ER24 urges pregnant women to abstain from drinking alcohol.

Willem Stassen, ER24 critical care paramedic, said that FAS is the leading preventable cause of mental retardation.

ALSO READ: Tips to survive your pregnancy

“It is a clinical syndrome that occurs when the unborn baby is exposed to alcohol through maternal alcohol consumption. This syndrome is characterised by distinct facial abnormalities and other defects in the heart, muscles, kidneys and eyes. One study reports that the incidence of FAS in some South African populations may be as high as 12.2 percent. Unfortunately, the damage done in FAS is permanent and cannot be undone,” he said.

According to the SA National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (SANCA) FAS is 100 percent preventable.

Stassen said the baby took in almost everything the mother consumed because the two were connected by the placenta and umbilical cord.

He said substances could build up in the baby’s system and cause permanent damage.

Stassen said there was no safe level or period of alcohol intake during pregnancy as this was determined by the alcohol clearance rates, foetal sensitivity to alcohol, drinking patterns of the mother-to-be as well as genetics.

ALSO READ: Questions to ask your medical aid before having a baby
“For this reason, all international guidelines recommend that pregnant women completely abstain from all alcoholic beverages during the entire duration of pregnancy. Pregnant women should always attend prenatal check-ups at a registered healthcare provider,” he said.

According to a survey by SANCA there are at least 500 000 South African’s suffering from FAS.

With an incidence of 8-12 percent, South Africa has the highest rate of FAS globally, with De Aar in Northern Cape having the highest prevalence of 12 percent in the country.

Stassen said for assistance with alcohol dependency, contact Alcoholics Anonymous on 0861 HELP AA (435-722). For more information on FAS, visit

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Felicia Nkhwashu

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