Alcohol and pregnancy: Readers’ questions

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Still on the foetal alcohol disorder spectrum, I will respond to some of the questions or inquiries that have been pouring in.

One asked if it is possible to have a baby with the foetal alcohol spectrum disorder syndrome (FASD) and not be aware. As long as you are a woman and pregnant if you drink beer, wine, coolers or liquor, the alcohol will pass through the blood stream to your body and this causes FASD, a condition that can affect your baby for life.

Children with FASD have problems with development, learning, behaviour, and social skills. In the extreme, physical deformities.

Another said is there a safe amount of alcohol that one can consume while pregnant and also how can one prevent FASD?

This remains unknown so the best is to stay away from alcohol before you decide to be pregnant and after you are pregnant as the more alcohol you consume the more the baby is exposed, so stopping alcohol consumption is saving your baby as there is no safe amount during pregnancy.

Babies exposed to alcohol may develop brain damage, be smaller than other babies, and have slight differences in their faces such as small or narrow eyes and a thin or flat lip.

Some become fussy and find it hard to settle and have sleeping problems. Babies exposed to large amounts of alcohol before birth may have withdrawal symptoms during the first few weeks of life and the symptoms include, extreme fussiness, tremours and shaking, feeding problems and diarrhoea. These babies may also have a problem with their heart rate, breathing or digestion.

Another question was does FASD go away? FASD stays a lifetime but the symptoms may change as your child grows older. Toddlers with FASD usually exhibit the following, being hyperactive, unable to follow simple instructions, much too friendly even to strangers and also delay in development.

School aged children with FASD have learning difficulties including reading, have a hard time paying attention, struggle with behaviour problems in the class room and fall behind in school and have low self-esteem.

Teenagers and adults with FASD may have mental problems, show inappropriate sexual behaviours, have bad experiences in school, get into trouble with the law and abuse drugs or alcohol.

Children with partial FASD will also need more support at home and at school, they excel better with an education programme tailored to their needs.

The best thing is if you know you have been drinking or binging during pregnancy have a doctor and other specialists look into the specialised needs of your baby that need attention and you will be able to support your child grow as you know their special needs.

Mthandazo Ndlovu is a drug prevention and rehabilitation specialist.For more information and help contact 00263772399734 or e-mail and join the rechabites in creating a drug-free society.