World Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Day is commemorated at nine minutes past nine on the ninth day of the ninth month, to remind women that they should not drink liquor for the nine months of their pregnancy.
Sister Sue Pitcairn from the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (Sanca) in Limpopo, says South Africa is reported as having the highest incidence of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome in the world.
Foetal Alcohol Syndrome is a group of birth defects caused by the high consumption of liquor while pregnant, and the biggest cause of mental retardation in the world.
The syndrome is entirely preventable, but cannot be cured.
“Whatever the mother drinks, so does the unborn baby. Liquor is harmful to unborn babies who may be born with physical defects, abnormal facial characteristics and brain damage leading to developmental delays and learning difficulties. These children need special care for the rest of their lives. Any amount of liquor can be damaging at any stage of the pregnancy,” says Sue.
“It is advised that the mother stops drinking as soon as she finds out she is pregnant, preferably even during the pregnancy planning stages.
“There is a need to educate mothers on the effects of alcohol on their unborn babies. We need to spread this information far and wide.”
Some of the symptoms of babies born with this syndrome, include facial abnormalities, low birth weight, stunted growth and neurological delay.
It is important to let your doctor know if you consumed any alcohol during your pregnancy, because sometimes the baby might look normal from birth.
If you are struggling to stop drinking alcohol (or using drugs) whilst pregnant or planning to fall pregnant, please contact Sanca Limpopo at (015) 295 3700 for support and assistance.
Story: Umpha Manenzhe