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I am worried about the effect of alcohol on my foetus, because I had a few drinks before I realized I was pregnant. What should I do about it?

Start by reassuring yourself that there is every chance that your baby is fine. A few drinks are not a problem. You will find that this is a really common situation, and that you will encounter many women on your journey through pregnancy who are in the same situation with the same fears. And almost every one of you will deliver a healthy baby.

However from here on you need to be very careful. The baby is your womb shares your blood circulation and is exposed to what you drink. Also the baby takes far longer than you do to process the alcohol you drink. So if you continue to drink, especially on a regular basis, even one a day, your baby could experience problems. You will meet women who continue to drink through the pregnancy, and deliver perfect babies. But it is a risk that you take, and the effect of ongoing alcohol consumption are not always easy to pin point. Small developmental problems can incrementally affect the life of the child, and the link back to the mother’s alcohol consumption is often not made. This kind of ongoing consumption can also be the cause of labour and birth problems. Again, the connection is not always made between alcohol consumption and the problem, but this can be the cause of a wide range of situations, including miscarriage, premature labour, and babies with low birth weight.

Heavy consumption, of approximately six alcoholic drinks per day, is closely linked to very definite and permanent physical and mental abnormalities, as well as low birth weight. Not only do these children also often have severe psychological problems but they are prone to short life spans. It is a massive risk to the baby if you continue to drink heavily. This is called foetal alcohol syndrome, and South Africa has the dubious fame of having the highest rate of this syndrome in the world.


 
   
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