No amount of alcohol is safe for women to drink when they are pregnant.
This is the message MEC for Health Dr Nomafrench Mbombo stressed when she and her entourage of health practitioners and traditional healers visited Gugulethu Mall last Wednesday to raise awareness about the dangers of drinking alcohol when pregnant.
The campaign was held to mark Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Day, observed on the ninth day of the ninth month of the year – September 9 at 9:09am.
Foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a group of birth defects caused by drinking alcohol when one is pregnant.
Giving out pamphlets to the shoppers and passers-by, the MEC said if pregnant women drink alcohol, the liquor can have lifelong effects on their unborn children.
She said it was important that people should know because the country has the highest prevalence of FAS disorder in the world.
“Drinking can harm the development of a baby’s brain in any quantity or at any stage during pregnancy. If you do not believe that, take an egg, put it in a mug and then pore a bit of alcohol and see the results. That is exactly what happens to the baby’s brain.
“That is why we sometimes have kids who it is hard to discipline.
Children exposed to alcohol prenatally are at risk of suffering from impaired abilities,” she warned.
Dr Mbombo also appealed to the friends and spouses of pregnant women not to drink near them so that they won’t be tempted to drink. “Do not drink around them because they might
be tempted. We want pregnant women to eat healthy. And they should refrain from smoking too. Those who drink during pregnancy are putting the baby’s health at risk. Babies may in the long run develop a serious condition called foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS),” she said.
Members of the Western Cape Inyangi Forum, who were part of the campaign, commended Dr Mbombo for raising awareness around FAS. Chairman Monwabisi Yamani said the campaign was an eye-opener but the time was “too little”.
He said it should have been something that was discussed in detail.
“We were fortunate to be part of it and we appreciate that. But we felt there was not enough time. Next time they need to make it better. We are talking about the lives of people here, so we should not rush things,” he said.
Another member Mavusi Gqawula said he hoped that people would adhere to the MEC’s message.