Foetal Alcohol Syndrome
Drinking alcohol when pregnant carries a significant risk to
the unborn baby because alcohol easily crosses the placental
barrier, thus passing from mother to child. Women who are
pregnant or are attempting to get pregnant, or breast feeding
should refrain from taking alcohol.
Depending on the level and the duration of alcohol consumed
during pregnancy, the possible consequences of drinking alcohol
while pregnant can vary from spontaneous abortion to premature
labour, still births, and Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS).
Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (F.A.S.) is thought to be the third
highest cause of congenital mental retardation. This syndrome is
Even moderate consumption of alcohol, of about 2 or 3 drinks per
day could present a risk to the development of the baby.
- Cranio-facial malformation: typically a reduction in
skull size, small upper lip and nose, receding and small
lower jaw, contracted eyelids. These malformations persist
- Growth retardation: wide ranging, affecting height,
weight, skull size. Small height persists into adulthood.
- Abnormalities in the nervous system. Brain atrophy or
incomplete development of some part of the brain may result
in severe intellectual handicaps.
- Organ malformation. The most frequent malformations are
of the heart, external genital organs and joints.
Foetal Alcohol Effects (F.A.E) and Foetal Alcohol Syndrome are
preventable simply by women refraining from drinking alcohol
during their pregnancy. FAS and FAE are permanent and
irreversible. There is no cure and no treatment. FAS and FAE can
impair a child's lifetime ability to function mentally,
physically and socially and to be the best that they can be.
You can go to your local clinic
or community health centre for further
information or advice on Foetal Alcohol Syndrome.
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Copyright © KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health, 2001