International Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Day is commemorated annually on 9 September to draw attention to the risks of drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
It’s estimated that 25 thousand babies are born with FAS in SA every year.
Vivien Lourens is one of the people who helped get International FAS day started in South Africa.
She has experienced what it feels like caring for a child with FAS when she was an emergency foster mom. In 1996 she was asked to take care of a 10 week old premature baby who was abandoned at birth.
Lourens took in baby Tisha and cared for her as her own.
The Hospital said she probably wouldn't last a weekend and that made me determined that she wouldn't die on me.— Vivien Lourens, mom
When they went for her first premature baby check up, the doctors told her that the baby had FAS. She says it was her first exposure to the condition and she didn't know what to do.
I got home and asked my husband please do research on this. We went on the internet and found a group in Canada going through the same problems which I was.— Vivien Lourens, mom
According to Lourens, Tisha was affected on both the physical as well as intellectual level.
She would never be independent. She cant even cross the road on her own because she has no consequences of traffic.— Vivien Lourens, mom
Life is not easy for her but she coped and she has such a tremendous personality— Vivien Lourens, mom
Pippa Hudson also spoke to Gynecologist and obstetrician Dr Peter Koll who explains that alcohol is a teratogen.
A teratogen is a substance that causes abnormalities to an unborn foetus. He says the damage done by alcohol on the baby is irreversible.
Alcohol is a teratogen it causes structural and developmental abnormalities in babies, so there is no safe level of alcohol, we simply have to avoid it completely during pregnancy.— Dr Peter Koll, Gynecologist and obstetrician
Once the damage is done, it is irreversible brain damage caused by alcohol...— Dr Peter Koll, Gynecologist and obstetrician
Pippa went on to talk to other role players including a disability activist and a local company which feels the social impact of FAS very acutely.
Listen to the full conversation below: