There are more than 428 medical conditions, diseases or developmental problems related to foetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

The sheer number of diseases that co-occur with the disorder show how serious any drinking in pregnancy is, said Leana Olivier, CEO of the Foundation for Alcohol-Related Research.


Spectrum disorder is a broad term that describes a wide range of conditions that can occur if a child’s mother drinks alcohol during pregnancy. It is a broader definition of foetal alcohol syndrome, the more serious form of the illness, that leads to mental disability.

Researchers from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Canada analysed 127 academic articles on Americans with the disease.

The most common associated conditions included malformations, deformities, and chromosomal abnormalities, and mental and behavioural disorders.

The study found 80% of those with foetal alcohol syndrome had communication disorders, related to either understanding or expressing language.

Seven out of 10 had developmental or cognitive disorders and more than half had problems with attention and hyperactivity.

“The spectrum is very prevalent in South Africa.”

Olivier said a high prevalence of the disease “has a huge impact on the education system, health system and financial system”.

She said she had seen children from rich families who had been diagnosed with hyperactivity, but had a form of the disorder.

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