Today, 9 September 2010, is World Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Day. This is celebrated every year at 9:09 am on the 9th day of the 9th month to raise awareness of the dangers of drinking while pregnant and to raise awareness of the conditions of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is a characteristic pattern of physical and mental birth deficiencies, caused by alcohol consumption by the pregnant mother. The effects of alcohol on the unborn child are well documented, but no one has any idea how much alcohol would be deemed to be “too much”. Therefore doctor’s advocate abstinence during pregnancy.
This would be fine in the ideal world. Unfortunately in countries like South Africa we have a high prevalence of FAS babies born each year. In the area where I live, which is the Western Cape, research has shown that in the Western Cape high risk areas, approximately 9.5% of children are born with FAS.
Here are some facts taken from the FASFacts.org.za website:
- An estimated 25 000 babies are born with FAS every year in South Africa.
- South Africa has the highest frequency of FAS reported in one population anywhere in the world.
- The prevalence of FAS in countries such as America varies from 0.1 to 0.8%, whereas in South Africa FAS is as high as 12.2% in some areas.
- The prevalence rate of Fetal Alcohol Exposure is far higher than the recorded FAS rate (between three to five times higher.)
- FAS is the largest cause of mental retardation in most industrial nations.
- FAS is found amongst all races and across all socio-economic groups.
- Alcohol during pregnancy, regardless of quantity, can cause permanent brain damage.
- FAS is 100% preventable.
- There is no cure for FAS.
Having read those facts it is now important for all women when pregnant to abstain from alcohol. This doesn’t mean that the father’s have nothing to do. They can be immensely helpful in helping the mother’s of their unborn children in abstaining from drinking while pregnant.
If you would like further information about FAS and the research and support that is happening in South Africa please visit FASFacts