|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.