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Alcohol during pregnancy and breastfeeding

Mthandazo Ndlovu

The month of September is the foetal alcohol spectrum disorder syndromeA� (FASD) awareness month with the 9th day of September being the day that the commemorations are held worldwide, and we being part of the global village it is only wise to join the world in recognition of this awareness as we too are not spared from the FASD effects.

The foetal alcohol spectrum disorder syndrome (FASD) results when a woman drinks during pregnancy. FASD is an umbrella term that covers foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorders (ARND), alcohol-related birth defects (ARBD), foetal alcohol effects (FAE) and partial foetal alcohol syndrome (PFAS).

When a pregnant woman drinks, the alcohol in her blood passes freely through the placenta into the developing babya��s blood. Because the foetus does not have a fully developed liver, it cannot filter out the toxins from the alcohol as an adult can.

Instead, the alcohol circulates in the babya��s blood system. It can destroy brain cells and damage the nervous system of the foetus at any point during the nine months of pregnancy.

The effects can be mild or severe, ranging from reduced intellectual ability and attention deficit disorder to heart problems and even death. Many children experience serious behavioural and social difficulties that last a lifetime.

Although alcohol can affect the development of cells and organs, the brain and nervous systems are particularly vulnerable.

We cana��t see the neurological brain damage that is caused, but there are a number of invisible characteristics in babies born with FASD, which include attention defects, memory defects, hyper activity, and difficulty with abstract concepts like mathematics, time and money.

Poor problem solving skills, difficulty in learning from consequences and confused social skills are some of the effects of FASD.

There are also a number of physical effects including, smaller head circumference,heart problems,limb damage, kidney damage, damage to the structure of the brain, eye problems, hearing problems and specific facial characteristics.

The incidence of FASD in Zimbabwe and internationally is not accurately known. Many children born with FASD are not diagnosed, or do not receive a correct diagnosis, which makes calculating the prevalence of the condition extremely difficult.

Women do not drink to intentionally harm their babies. There are a number of reasons why women might drink alcohol while they are pregnant: they might not know they are pregnant; they might be pressured socially; they might be trying to cope with problems and stress; or they might not have received any information about the risks of drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

Because there is no proven safe level for alcohol consumption during pregnancy, theA� only risk-free approach is to avoid alcohol completely a�� during pregnancy, when tryingA� to conceive and when breastfeeding.

a�� Mthandazo Ndlovu is a drug prevention and rehabilitation specialist. Join the Rechabites in creating drug-free, healthy and productive lives. For help and more information contact 00263772399734 or email mthae4jesus@gmail.com