Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) describes a myriad of symptoms such as mental disabilities, impaired growth and physical deformities that affect children born to mothers who drank during pregnancy. The condition is irreversible.
South Africa has one of the highest incidences of FAS in the world, according to the South African National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence (SANCA).
Mother of two, Gugulethu Ngobeni from Ka-Mabuza in Ermelo shares her story.
“Years back, I lost my job and started drinking alcohol. At first I thought it was something I could stop if I wanted to but I couldn’t. My first child didn’t live with me, so I had time to go to nightclubs almost every day. That’s where I met my husband, who is my second child’s father.
“A month into the relationship we found out we were pregnant, but we still didn’t stop going to clubs and drinking. When I was four months pregnant, I started antenatal care. I remember the nurses were complaining that I was not gaining weight. It never crossed my mind that it was the alcohol.
“I was at my friend’s party drinking when my labour pains started. I almost died. With the help of the nurse at the hospital, my daughter’s delivery was successful. After giving birth, I heard the nurses saying my baby looked like she had FAS. I didn’t ask what FAS was.
“I thought my baby was going die because I didn’t have any of knowledge at all. I did my own research on Google about FAS and the results were eye opening. I am glad I learned more about it.
“In order for any pregnant women to prevent their unborn baby from getting FAS… they should to stop drinking alcohol immediately. Some babies are born showing that they have FAS, but some develop it while growing up. For those babies born showing the syndrome mothers usually get counseling.
“Sometimes I wish I could reverse time so I could prevent my daughter from having FAS because she gets sick more often than others her age, but I can’t. My husband and I are dealing with our past mistakes.
“We are trying by all means not to show our daughter that she’s different because, to us, she’s more than perfect.”[box]
These are some signs that present in children who might have FAS:
1. Low nasal bridge
2. Epicanthic fold
3. Small and wide-set eyes
4. A short, upturned nose
5. Small and low-set ears
6. A thin upper lip with a flat philtrum
7. A small and recessed chin.
A child with FAS has brain and nerve abnormalities which manifest in things like:
- attention deficit disorder
- It also takes them longer than normal to complete tasks.[/box]