Cape Town – South Africa is known to have the highest prevalence rate of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) in the world, with rates ranging from 29 to 290 per 1,000 live births.
FASD organizations attribute these high levels to lack of prenatal education and ignorance.
September marks FASD Awareness Month, dedicated to educating parents and the public about the dangers of alcohol use during pregnancy.
Former South African Medical Research Council researcher Dr Sandra Marais, who has more than fifteen years of experience in trauma research, pointed out that research studies indicated that most mothers who used drug alcohol during pregnancy did not do it out of malice, but was simply ill-informed. on the harm of alcohol on the developing fetus.
âThrough several research projects that we have carried out in the Western Cape, in areas such as Ceres, we have found that there is a lack of knowledge among mothers about the dangers of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. . Apart from the overt drug addiction, there was also a lack of good nutrition for these mothers, âsaid Marais.
Marais explained that although FASD affects people of all ethnicities and social classes, it is predominant in low-income areas, among those with no education. FASD causes irreversible damage to a child’s brain and central nervous system, which means it can only be combated through prevention education.
âThere is no alcohol that is safe for consumption during pregnancy, it is the percentage of alcohol and the amount of consumption that will determine the extent of the damage,â said Marais.
FASD is described by FASfacts as more than a disability – it is a social disorder, with immense financial implications for government and society. A report published by FASfacts explained that the repercussions of maternal alcohol use during pregnancy negatively impact the unborn baby, their family and society as a whole.
Founder of FASIC (FAS Information Center), Vivien Lourens started the organization after adopting a girl born with FASD. The mother of the now 25-year-old woman living with FAS is also the author of a book called Living with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: Our Journey with TishaThe book was written to help parents and guardians of children living with FASD.
âAlthough the challenges faced by children born with FASD vary in severity, these challenges are neither treatable nor reversible. Children born with FASD live with disabilities and challenges for the rest of their lives, âsaid Lourens.
Lourens explained that children born with FASD suffer from learning difficulties and behavioral problems. These kids require an extra amount of patience, repetitiveness, and even basic things – such as housework, reading, and writing – often prove difficult.
âMy daughter is a wonderful and loving person, but due to FAS she is unable to read and write which makes it almost impossible for her to enter the workforce. Many people living with FAS have difficulty adjusting to social plans. Without FASD, they would have been open to many perspectives, âadded Lourens.
Since children are born with behavioral problems and disabilities, including learning disabilities, FASD is considered a contributing factor to early school leaving, juvenile delinquency, poverty, criminality and chronically unemployed.