FASD

A preventable lifelong sentence. Mail & Guardian October 29 to November 3 2016

FASD: A preventable lifelong sentence

Inherited burden: The community of Worcestor is one of many that has been affected by high incidences of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. (Photo: David Harrison)

Inherited burden: The community of Worcestor is one of many that has been affected by high incidences of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. (Photo: David Harrison)

It’s a spectrum of disorders that has been likened in its long-term negative effects to radiation poisoning. Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a wide range of physical and neurobehavioural symptoms in the baby, caused by the mother’s prenatal alcohol use. Alcohol in the mother’s blood passes through the umbilical cord to the foetus, which means that when the mother drinks during pregnancy, so does her baby.

“The effect of alcohol use during pregnancy is highly individual and ranges from brain damage to physical abnormalities and behaviour problems,” says Marlene de Vries, project co-ordinator of the Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Research Study in the department of psychiatry at Stellenbosch University. “Babies exposed to alcohol in utero are born small, struggle to gain weight, often have sleeping or nursing problems, and are generally easily irritated.”