Protect your unborn child, prevent a lifetime's damage | Western Cape Government



Protect your unborn child, prevent a lifetime's damage

9 September 2022

STOP. Do not drink alcohol when you are pregnant, suspect you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant. No amount of alcohol is safe for the unborn baby.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a group of conditions associated with the effects of alcohol consumption by pregnant mothers. Although there is no cure for this irreversible, lifelong condition, research shows that early intervention treatment services can improve a child’s development

International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness Day is commemorated annually on 9 September.  FASD is a diagnostic term describing a range of conditions affecting persons exposed to alcohol during pregnancy. Globally, every year at nine minutes past nine on 9 September, people are encouraged to ring bells as part of the international call to create awareness and focus attention on the facts that any alcohol intake by women during the nine months of pregnancy, will affect the unborn baby.

“This year we want to highlight the love, the caring, and the hope for the challenging road ahead when an affected individual is surrounded by those who care. While celebrating the positive, we cannot ignore the reality that South Africa has by far the highest FASD rate in the world. The World Health Organization estimates the global FASD prevalence rate to be approximately 15 per 1000 live births (1,5%).  In South Africa, research done by the Foundation for Alcohol Related Research (FARR) in 5 of the 9 provinces, revealed rates as high as 282/1000 live births in some communities in the Northern Cape Province.  The Western Cape Province has areas with rates as high as 250/1000 live births (25%) (FASER-SA report),” says Dr Leana Olivier, CEO FARR.

“FASD is a life-long condition and prenatal exposure to alcohol can cause permanent brain damage which often result in learning and behavioural difficulties. FASD impact all areas of a child’s life, especially their education. I therefore appeal to expectant mothers, their family members, partners, and friends to support pregnant mothers by abstaining from any alcohol use. Always remember there is no amount of alcohol that is safe during pregnancy,” says Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, Western Cape Minister of Health.

“No amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy. I tell my patients that they are responsible for their unborn babies. If you do consume alcohol during pregnancy, your baby can end up getting fetal alcohol syndrome, their brain and milestones will be badly affected. Whatever you consume, your baby consumes,” said sister Angeline Solomons, midwife at Macassar Clinic.

According to Michelle Jenkins, Occupation Therapist at George Hospital: “A child with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome often presents with coordination difficulties, hyperactivity, poor judgement, poor impulse control, delayed gross motor development, sensory hypersensitivity and low frustration toleration, amongst other things. Therapy (Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy) aims at improving motor control (fine and gross motor) and through activities, address the sensory sensitivity, depending on the main areas of concerns that the parents/school are reporting”.


Effects of alcohol on your child:

  • Increases the risk of miscarriage, premature birth and the baby having a low birthweight
  • Children with FASD are slow in reaching milestones, such as sitting, walking, and talking.
  • A child with FASD often has a lower IQ than children who don’t have FASD and struggle to learn.
  • Children with FASD often find it difficult to concentrate and have to be taught the same skills many times.
  • Organ damaged, especially the brain, eyes, ears and heart.
  • The baby’s facial features could be affected.
  • Brain damage which results in lifelong problems such as learning disabilities.
  • Difficulty with interpersonal relationship problems.
  • Developmental disabilities such as fine motor development, coordination, arithmetic and cause and effect reasoning. 

First thousand days

The First 1000 days is a key initiative driven by the Western Cape Government Health. A child’s health is most vulnerable during the First 1000 days of life. This period, from conception until a child’s second birthday, offers a unique opportunity to shape healthier and prosperous futures.

“What is done during the first 1000 days will have an effect on the baby for the rest of his life, so please do not consume any alcohol while pregnant, planning for pregnancy or even if you suspect that you are pregnant. FASD is preventable,” says Hildegard van Rhyn, Child Health Coordinator, West Coast District.

Speak to your healthcare worker at your nearest clinic if you are concerned that your child may have FASD. 


Are you struggling to stop drinking alcohol, using drugs or smoking? Speak to your healthcare worker, social worker, or religious leader. You can also contact any of the following organisations:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous, 021 418 0908
  • Al-Anon, 021 595 4517
  • SANCA, 021 945 4080
  • FASFacts, 023 342 7000
  • FARR (Foundation for Alcohol Related Research), 083 275 0202
  • Pebbles Project, 072 472 2797 


Commemorating FASD day on Friday, 9 September

Western Cape Ministers Nomafrench Mbombo and Sharna Fernandez will partner with the Foundation of Alcohol Related Research (FARR) to commemorate International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Day. Tomorrow, Friday, 9 September, at 09:00, Ministers Mbombo and Fernandez will join FARR in raising awareness about FASD, and participate in the global tradition of bell ringing at 9:09.