South Africa has the highest prevalence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) in the world which is more than 14 times the global average. South Africa has an incidence of 111.1 per 1‚000 children‚ followed by Croatia at 53.3 per 1‚000 and Ireland at 47.5 per 1‚000. The global average is 7.7 per 1.000. This is according to research published on August 21,2017 in the American Medical Association journal JAMA Pediatrics.
What is fetal alcohol spectrum disorder?
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is a group of disorders that develop when a mother drinks alcohol during pregnancy. It is called a spectrum as the clinical features may differ from very severely affected (Fetal alcohol syndrome) to less severely affected.
In the womb, a baby doesn’t have a fully developed liverthat can process or break down alcohol, so it can easily get to and damage the baby’s organs.
Some of the most severe problems happen when a pregnant woman drinks in the first trimester, when the baby’s brainstarts to develop. But the second and third trimesters aren’t safe either. The brainis still developing then, and this process can be interrupted by even moderate amounts of alcohol.
There is no “safe” amount of alcohol that pregnant women can drink. And there is no time during pregnancy when it’s considered safe to drink alcohol, either.
Signs and symptoms:
There can be a mixture of physical, cognitive and behavioural signs and symptoms. For example a child can have no physical signs but still have intellectual disabilities.
The most common signs include:
Small birth weight with difficulty gaining weight
Thin upper lip
A smooth ridge between the upper lip and nose – This area is called the “philtrum.”
Eye openings that are shorter than normal
In children with FAS, symptoms can include:
“Developmental delays” – This means they take longer to do things other children the same age can do, such as walking and talking.
Being more active than normal
Having weak, floppy muscles
Having problems with learning, hearing, and seeing
In teenagers and adults with FAS, symptoms might include problems with:
Thinking and memory
Paying attention and concentrating
Getting along with other people
Diagnosing Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
There is no lab test that can prove a child has FAS. Many of its symptoms can seem like ADHD.
How is FAS treated?
Unfortunately, the damage cannot be undone, but with early diagnosis children can be supported with therapy
Can FAS be prevented?
Yes! No amount of alcohol is known to be safe during pregnancy. Women can prevent FAS by not drinking any alcohol when trying to get pregnant or during pregnancy