Medical society warns of the risk of alcohol consumption during pregnancy

Drinking alcoholic beverages during pregnancy is a risk factor for the development of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), which can lead to physical disabilities and neurodevelopmental disorders, warns the Brazilian Society of Pediatrics (SBP).

The physician Conceição Segre, coordinator of the SBP Prevention Campaign against SAF, says that currently there is no treatment that leads to a cure for the syndrome, which can lead to irreversible damage, such as mental retardation and congenital anomalies. Therefore, it is important to reinforce awareness-raising actions for prevention. This Thursday (9), the World Day for Prevention of FAS is remembered.

“What is recommended is that, during pregnancy, the pregnant woman does not drink any, zero, amount of alcohol, because we do not know, until today science has not discovered, if there is any safe amount [de ingestão]. What is known is that any amount of alcohol at any time during pregnancy can reach the fetus and cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, complete or partial”, he said.

Conceição explains that alcohol easily passes through the placenta and reaches the fetus, and can cause several injuries, especially in the central nervous system. “The syndrome can be complete or partial. When it is complete, it manifests in facial defects, so the baby has a very peculiar facial feature, he has thin lips, small eyelids, his face can be recognized already at birth.”

If the baby does not present these characteristics at birth, he may later show symptoms that usually appear at school age. In other words, the child is not doing well at school, has a learning problem or has behavioral disorders.

“The disease has no cure, there is no curative treatment. What exists is supportive treatment, with psychologists, a multidisciplinary team, occupational therapists, psychiatrists, in short, it is a complicated and expensive treatment”, said the specialist.

According to the doctor, in countries like Canada, Germany and France, there is investment in prevention campaigns that raise awareness among the population. “Here, in Brazil, very little is done about it. We, by the way, don’t even know what the official frequency is, data from the Ministry of Health, about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.”

“What is accepted, what is admitted, is the data in the literature, from six to nine people affected by a thousand births. But this is data from literature, it is not specific Brazilian data”, he said.

The Brazilian Society of Pediatrics has a platform with the objective of increasing awareness of mothers and health professionals about the harm of alcohol consumption during pregnancy for babies.

The Ministry of Health (MS) reported that Primary Health Care (PHC) teams are instructed to investigate the consumption of alcohol by pregnant women during prenatal care and, if necessary, recommend treatment or interruption of alcohol consumption during the pregnancy. From 2017 to 2021, 39 hospitalizations of babies diagnosed with FAS were registered, according to data from the folder.

“The team that cares for pregnant women must recognize the situation and its complexity, encouraging the pregnant woman to understand the harmful effects of alcohol during pregnancy and thus participate in treatment programs, if applicable, or comply with the recommendation not to drink during pregnancy”, says the ministry, in a note.

The folder also stated that, according to the Ministry of Health’s Technical Manual on High-Risk Pregnancy, in addition to causing Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, alcoholism can be one of the causes of placental abruption.

According to the ministry, the syndrome may also be related to low weight for gestational age, malformations in the facial structure, defects in the cardiac ventricular septum, malformations of the hands and feet, in addition to mental retardation ranging from mild to moderate. Problems in behavior and learning can also persist through at least childhood.