September 14, 2023

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Fetal alcohol syndrome, or FAS, is a congenital disorder (present from birth) in children. Its causes are directly linked to maternal consumption of alcohol during pregnancy.

According to the Foundation for Alcohol Related Research (FARR), FAS is said to affect about 3 million people in South Africa, with unpublished reports suggesting that one in four women in the country are heavy alcohol consumers.

Alcohol consumption during pregnancy interferes with the normal delivery of oxygen and nutrition to a baby’s developing tissues and organs, including the brain, and because a foetus metabolises alcohol at a much slower rate than an adult does, this results in the presence of higher blood alcohol concentrations in a developing baby.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy, especially in the first three months, places a baby’s mental and physical development at risk, and may result in permanent damage to the brain, heart, bones and central nervous system.

FAS is the most severe form of the fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), a range of disorders resulting from alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

What are its symptoms?

FAS symptoms range from physical, brain and central nervous system impairments to social and behavioural difficulties, and include the following:

*Slow physical growth during pregnancy and after


*Vision and hearing difficulties

*Small head circumference and brain

*Distinctive facial features including wide-set eyes,

very thin upper lip, small upturned nose

*Poor coordination, balance and memory

*Rapid mood swings

*Learning disorders

*Difficulty concentrating, reasoning and problem


*Poor social skills

*Problems with behaviour and impulse control

If you are pregnant and can't stop drinking, ask your healthcare provider for immediate help through a treatment plan.

You can also reach out to the Foundation for Alcohol Related Research for help and to join their Healthy Mother, Healthy Baby Programmes.

Unit 5, Amber Place

42 Bloemhof Street

Bellville, 7535

Cape Town, South Africa

Telephone: +27 21 686 2645/6/7



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*All of our information are only guidelines and are not intended to replace the advice of a professional medical specialist; we are providing information to you on a general information basis only.  My Pregnancy Journey disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information. 

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