Lady in waiting...
During her first trimester of pregnancy, Paula, a mother from the shanty community of Sítio Joaninha, had listened ardently to what I had to say about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and the possible effects of alcohol on her unborn baby.
I find myself constantly informing pregnant mothers like Paula, whom I meet during my regular visits to the community, about the dangers of alcohol use during pregnancy. Paula’s habitual drinking gave me all the more reason to reinforce the information with her on each visit, about this leading known cause of mental retardation in the World today, with an occurrence rate of 1 in 750 live births. It is estimated that in the US alone, 5,000 infants are born each year with FAS and 50,000 with Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE). Approximately 30 to 40 percent of all women who drink heavily during pregnancy will have a baby with FAS. It is found in all races and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Brazil has no statistics on the subject and I am apt to believe that the numbers will be much higher here if ever the health authorities get round to doing research on the subject. The incredible number of youngsters from underprivileged communities in this country, involved with drugs and crime and living on the streets, could very well have roots back to the abuse of alcohol during pregnancy. Almost all the kids I have worked with on the streets or in youth delinquent detention centres came from alcohol abusive homes and specifically alcoholic mothers.......
Paula now believes that her alcohol abuse during pregnancy is probably the reason for her first-born son, João Vitor, to be the “impossible” child he makes out to be, a belief that gave her good enough reason to take heed of my advice and to stop drinking during the last 6 months of her recent pregnancy. Last week Paula’s second son was born, only a few days after the above photo was taken. I hope for the child’s sake and his mother’s too, that they will both be shielded from one more frustrating problem along with all the others they must deal with in their daily hardship to survive.
FAS / FAE is preventable - 100% preventable. Research has shown that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. The only sure way to prevent damage is to abstain from alcohol during pregnancy. There is no cure for FAS.
NB! As an important side note on this problem, our group of youth entrepreneurs, WINGS of Hummingbird, are developing a prevention programme about FAS / FAE to be introduced to Paula’s community next year.