DRINKING alcohol during pregnancy can cause a wide range of physical and mental birth defects, Dr. Damascene Nsanzabera, a Gynaecologist, at Kigali University Teaching Hospital (CHUK) has warned.
In an interview with The Sunday Times, Nsanzabera said that whatever dose taken in by the baby’s mother, the baby is directly affected.
“Alchohol is a drug, it is poison. A baby is not protected against any swallowed substance by the mother,” Nsanzabera underscored.
He noted that although alcohol-related problems during pregnancy are not a threat in the country, it is better to prevent them before they emerge. He warned that most defections of a baby caused by alcohol occur during its formation.
“There are no statistics related to that, simply because we don’t have it in the country, but it has been a problem in the developed countries, which gives us a chance to prevent it before it comes,” he advised.
A health guide book distributed to health workers in several sectors in Rwanda, indicates that about 80 grams of alcohol is enough to cause damage to the foetus.
80 grams of alcohol is equivalent to two bottles of beer.
Research shows that Alcohol can cause ‘foetal alcohol spectrum disorders’ (FASDs) meaning a pattern of mental and physical defects which develops in some unborn babies when the mother drinks “too much” alcohol during pregnancy.
A baby born with FASDs can have serious handicaps and could require a lifetime special care.
Foetal alcohol exposure has become a popular cause for mental retardation in the Western world.
According to research, in the United States, the foetal alcohol syndrome prevalence rate is estimated to be between 0.2 and 2.0 cases per 1,000 live births, comparable to or higher than other developmental disabilities.
It is reported that each year in the United States, up to 40,000 babies are born with FASDs.
Although many women are aware that heavy drinking during pregnancy can cause birth defects, many do not realize that moderate or even light drinking may also harm the foetus.
Health reports suggest that when a pregnant woman drinks, alcohol passes through the placenta to her foetus.
In the foetus’s immature body, alcohol is broken down much more slowly than in an adult’s body as a result, the alcohol level of the baby’s blood can be higher and remain elevated longer than the level in the mother’s blood.