Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness | Western Cape Government

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Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness

When a woman drinks alcohol during her pregnancy she puts her unborn baby at risk of being born with multiple disabilities.

Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a group of birth defects caused when a woman drinks alcohol during pregnancy. Alcohol can harm an unborn baby in different ways at different times during the pregnancy and can cause damage to the unborn baby.

South Africa has the highest FASD prevalence rate of 6-29% worldwide. According to research which the FASD Task Team at Stellenbosch University conducted, for every 1 000 babies born in the Western Cape Province, 55 are born with FASD with communities such as Wellington, Vredenburg and Saldanha having the highest recorded instances.  

What you should know about FASD Pregnant woman holding a copy of her ultra sound scan

Research shows that alcohol damages the unborn baby’s brain, nervous system and other organs which can lead to lifelong physical, behavioural and intellectual disabilities.

Even though FASD is completely preventable, there’s no cure for this irreversible lifelong condition. Any woman can have a baby with FASD if she drinks alcohol while pregnant as it affects people across racial and socio-economic groups. 

  • Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)

This is the severest form of FASD. Mothers who drink alcohol while pregnant put their unborn child at risk of developing physical, behavioural and intellectual problems that can’t be cured.

  • Partial FAS (pFAS)

Children born with pFAS have similar problems and features of FAF but to a lesser degree.

  • Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND)

Affected individuals have behavioural and intellectual problems but none of the physical complications.

  • Alcohol Related Birth Defects (ARBD)

Affected children are born without the physical complications but with damaged organs such as heart defects and eye problems to name a few.

10 FASD facts

  • FASD is 100% preventable.
  • Any amount of alcohol your drink during your pregnancy could harm your unborn baby.
  • Alcohol use during pregnancy is the direct cause of FASD.
  • FASD is the most common preventable form of mental disability.
  • There’s no cure for FASD.
  • FASD is and irreversible lifelong condition.
  • When a woman drinks alcohol during her pregnancy, it takes at least 20 minutes for the alcohol to reach the baby.
  • Women who drink during their pregnancy put their unborn child at risk of permanent brain, physical and organ damage.
  • Children born with FASD are most likely to experience decreased growth (before and after birth).
  • FASD babies become learners who, depending on the severity of the disorder, may not be able to cope in primary school and may experience learning disabilities throughout their school career.

There is help available

FASD is completely preventable. If you’re a mother or guardian of a child who suffers from FASD and need support, contact anyone of these organisations for help.

On Wednesday, 6 September 2017 The FASD Task Team will host their 4th bi-annual FASD conference at the Goodwood Civic Centre from 8:30am to 4pm. If you’d like to find out more about this disorder, send an email to or visit for more information.

Sources: FASfacts,  Foundation for Alcohol Related Research and Foundation for Alcohol Related Research

The content on this page was last updated on 30 August 2017