Foetal Alcohol Syndrome

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Table of contents

Introduction……………………………………………………………1

Definition of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)………………………..1

Characteristics of FAS…………………………………………………1

Affect of alcohol on the brain………………………………………….1

Affect of FAS on babies………………………………………………..1

The role the South African context has played in FAS………………...1

Conclusion……………………………………………………………...1

Reference List……………………………………………………….…1

Introduction

Upon conducting researching for this topic it was discovered what a common and devastating disorder this is and that it knows no boundaries in terms of race, educational level or socioeconomic status or the fact that South Africa has the highest rate of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome in the world!

The draft South African liquor bill released on Monday, 06 February 2012, will prohibit the sale of alcohol to pregnant women if it is passed. This is the first time that the South African government has proposed legislation to assist controlling the alcohol intake of women (Liquor Surprise for Pregnant Women, 2012). Is this enough though to meaningfully diminish the consumption of alcohol by pregnant women in South Africa? Within this context the following questions will be addressed in this assignment:

1. What is Foetal Alcohol Syndrome?

2. How is FAS characterised?

3. How does alcohol affect the brain?

4. How does FAS affect a baby?

5. What kind of role has the South African context played in FAS?

1. Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) Explained

Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is a lifelong, most common non-genetic yet preventable set of physical, mental and neurobehavioral birth defects associated with alcohol consumption during pregnancy and is the leading known cause of mental retardation and birth defects. (Stratton, K., Howe, C., & Battaglia, F., 2004)

The South African National Council on Alcoholism defines FAS as a term used to describe children who have growth deficiencies, mental retardation, and physical and central nervous system abnormalities as a result of their mothers’ alcohol consumption during pregnancy (Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, n.d.). FAS affected infants may present a range of physical and mental disorders and abnormalities and almost none of these babies will have normal brain development. The condition is irreversible. (Health Guide, 2012).

Alcohol contains acetaldehyde, a tissue toxin that crosses over the placenta. The placenta cannot perform its function of protecting and nourishing the foetus once it is invaded by alcohol. The alcohol permeates the developing tissues of the foetus, interfering with its healthy development. (Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, 2007).

Research indicated that early exposure to alcohol increases the chance of damage to the nervous system and growth impairment. The brain, which develops throughout the gestation period, can be affected throughout the pregnancy, and there is also the ever-present threat of miscarriage. (Literature Essays, n.d.).

A pregnant woman who drinks any alcohol is at risk of having a child with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome. No ‘safe’ level of alcohol use during pregnancy has been established. In other words, there is no known ‘tipping’ point of alcohol consumption for pregnant women. The only sure way to prevent FAS is total abstinence from alcohol (Mergel, 2010).

2. Characteristics of FAS

The adverse effects of alcohol on the developing foetus are characterised by a range of disorders, termed Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD), which is an umbrella term describing the range of effects than can occur in an individual whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. They include structural abnormalities as well as behavioural and neuro-cognitive disabilities. Children at the severe end of the spectrum are defined as having the foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) (Nicus, University of Stellenbosch, n.d.).

The characteristics of FAS have been well...
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