Cape Mental Health Society, South Africa's oldest mental health agency, has a clear health message for women on 9 September, Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Day: Do not drink alcohol during your pregnancy.
"If women did not drink alcohol during pregnancy, there would be no
children born with foetal alcohol syndrome. It's that simple," says Ekin Kench, Project Manager of Cape Mental Health Society's Learning for Life programme.
Foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a set of birth defects caused by the mother's consumption of alcohol during pregnancy and is 100% preventable.
Children with FAS are intellectually disabled, although the extent of the disability varies from child to child. Typically children with FAS will be challenged by poor motor skills, behaviour and learning problems, memory difficulties, limited attention span and poor judgement.
The children's growth may be retarded so they may be smaller than their peers, and their facial features may not be normal (they may have small eyes, a flat mid-face, a small chin, minor ear abnormalities, a short nose, or a thin upper lip.)
High prevalence in Western Cape
The Western Cape has one of the highest rates of FAS in
the world. A 1995 University of Cape Town study on the causes of intellectual disability found that in approximately two percent of cases FAS was the cause of the child's disability. (The study
involved 232 children with moderate and severe learning disabilities
assessed by the Development Assessment Clinics of the Red Cross Children's Hospital).
Want to know more?
Cape Mental Health Society is a non-profit organisation that facilitates comprehensive, pro-active and enabling mental health services in the Western Cape. For more information about intellectual disability, psychiatric disability and mental health promotion contact Cape Mental Health Society on (021) 447 9040 or visit their website www.capementalhealth.co.za.
Read our comprehensive article on FAS.