NORTH WEST – Tshegofatso Makroti, a 30-year old mother from Ikageng township in Potchefstroom who drank alcohol regularly through five pregnancies, believes that although two of her babies were stillborn her drinking was not a problem.
Makroti is not alone in her beliefs that drinking while pregnant is acceptable, and ignores the advice of those who warn against it. South Africa has one of the highest alcohol consumption levels in the world, with a recent study by Statistics South Africa last year revealing that one in four women (26%) over the age of 15 consumes alcohol.
According to a World Health Organisation report done in 2017, South African women top the list of heavy consumers of alcohol amongst females in Africa. With alcohol being used as a symbol of celebration, it poses a major threat to pregnant women and their babies when consumed in excess.
Makroti does not think her drinking caused harm to any of her babies – even though two of them died before birth.
“I have lost two babies. But I wouldn’t say it’s alcohol because I gave birth to three other healthy babies during all my five pregnancies. I was drinking, that was one of my cravings, but I was not drinking heavy, just anything to get me tipsy and deal with my cravings,” she said.
While studies conducted in recent years have shown that low alcohol consumption during pregnancy might not be harmful to the child, many medical practitioners advise mothers to stay away from alcohol completely to ensure the safety of their babies.
Women who consume excessive quantities of alcohol during pregnancy place the unborn child at risk of developing FASD – foetal alcohol spectrum disorders. This is a range of lifelong physical, behavioral and intellectual disabilities.
Mathpelo Segomotso, a nurse at a community health clinic, said where heavy drinkers suffer miscarriages, the alcohol is often a contributing factor.
“Some women get pregnant and then lose their baby before they become aware of their pregnancy. It’s sad and some of the miscarriages are due to high alcohol consumption,” she said.
Segomotso said pregnant women should abstain from drinking.
“Alcohol is bad for pregnancy, it increases the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. I know people say a little won’t harm, but to be safe, know that alcohol and pregnancy don’t mix.”
An edited version of this story was published by Health24.