20 June, 2012

                  Fetal/Foetal Alcoholic Syndrome

By Thabo Mongoato

Fetal alcoholic syndrome is a combination of physical and mental birth defects caused by excess alcohol intake during pregnancy; it then interferes with the natural development of the unborn infant.

This excessive alcohol intake is a result of ignorance on the side of the expectant mother.  Most ignorant females do not know that alcohol causes irreversible damage to their unborn baby.  The baby is at a disadvantage even before he/she is born and thereby does not stand any chance against his or her peers academically and in other extra-mural activities.
Male nurse Mr Unathi Sam from Lilitha Nursing College says dependency on alcohol by pregnant females “is mainly widespread among the depressed, the divorced, those who are carrying a rape child or carrying an illegitimate child and also those who live in dire poverty.”
They use alcohol for comfort, ignorant of the fact that they are putting the child’s life and future at a great disadvantage even before it is born and able to make its own choices.  Mr Sam continues and says that “the child is born is malnourished because the mother is always drinking, the mother is prone to self inflicted injuries which happen when she falls while drunk, this in turn exposes the unborn infant to injury.

Zizi Hlungulu a resident of Idutywa whose sister drank alcohol during pregnancy says; “My sister drank continuously when she was pregnant as though nothing happened, now her baby is almost two years old and he still cannot crawl like other babies his age.”

Crawling difficulties are just the beginning of the endless problems for the infant, Zizi adds “my nephew has a very small head, small eye openings, flattened cheekbones and when you call him he responds after a prolonged period.”

The above are the classic signs of fetal alcoholic syndrome which according to Sister Mbula of the East London Central Clinic some include “slow physical growth, thin lips, vision difficulties, learning disorders, heart defects, poor socialising skills.”
These symptoms are incurable because they were implanted during the infant’s formation time and have thus become part of the child’s nature; they are not a learned, they are acquired.

The problem is on the increase rather than on the decline. Most teenage girls start drinking at a young age due to peer pressure.  This eventually leads to alcohol dependency which may be followed by carelessness in sexual activities which then leads to pregnancy.

Next time you see a severely acting out teenager, an addicted prostitute, a homeless  beggar or a murderer, spare a thought they may behave as they do as a result of the brain damage caused by their mother’s drinking during pregnancy.

Sister Nomsa Mfubu of the Central East London Clinic says “If the mother drinks, the child also drinks, they are intertwined via the placenta, I strongly advise any expectant mother to stop drinking, and it is not worth the suffering the child will be exposed to.”

The future of an unborn infant lies squarely on the well being of the body of its mother. FAS can be prevented by not drinking any alcohol during pregnancy.  It is important therefore for women who are thinking about becoming pregnant to adopt a healthy lifestyle before they get pregnant, if only for the child’s sake.

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