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What is FASD?

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) are a group of disorders that can occur in a person whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. The effects can range from physical, behavioural and learning impairments. Most of the time, people with FASD have a mix of these impairments. South Africa has the highest reported FASD prevalence in the world.

What happens when someone drinks while pregnant?

FASD is a consequence of drinking alcohol during pregnancy. When alcohol enters the blood of the pregnant person, it is delivered to the fetus. This can have harmful effects to the growing fetus and its developing brain

Symptoms and complications of FASD


  • Low body weight
  • Shorter-than-average height
  • Small head size
  • Abnormal facial features, such as small eye openings, thin upper lip

Functional and behavioural symptoms

  • Poor coordination
  • hyperactive behaviour
  • difficulty with attention
  • poor memory
  • learning disabilities
  • speech and language delays
  • poor reasoning and judgement skills
  • sleep and sucking problems as a baby
  • vision or hearing problems


To prevent a child from having FASD, one should not drink during pregnancy. It is also never too late to stop drinking alcohol if one drinks whilst pregnant. The sooner one stops drinking, the better the outcome for the baby.


There is no cure for FASD. However, early treatment interventions can help with the child's development:

  • Present the child you are worried about early to the clinic or doctor for early diagnoses and application for disability grant
  • loving and nurturing home environment
  • involvement in special education

Where to get help?

The NGO, FASFacts educates communities and the general public what drinking alcohol during pregnancy does to unborn babies. FASFACTS also hosts the Pregnant Women Mentoring Programme (PWMP).

The PWMP is a 12-month intervention programme that supports pregnant women in abstaining from substance use during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Use the additional resources page to get in contact with these organisations or use the numbers below:

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    Substance Abuse
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