More awareness needed about substance abuse during pregnancy, says psychiatrist

Greater awareness in needed to curb substance abuse among pregnant women, says psychiatrist Dr Kerry Louw.

Recent stats show that nearly two in ten women in the Western Cape drink alcohol while they’re pregnant; which is twice the international average and more than double the number in the US.

Dr Louw says that substance abuse disorders among expectant mothers often result in problematic pregnancies.

We're seeing high numbers relative to the international numbers. It's a problem we are having to face at the moment.

Dr Kerry Louw, psychiatrist

Louw explains that substance use disorder, in terms of alcohol, is characterised by heavy or binge drinking and difficulty with withdrawal symptoms.

She advises that clinicians should be screening and asking pregnant women for substance use in order to help with behavioral interventions during antenatal care.

Dr Louw differentiates between substance use disorders and moderate drinking.

She advises that substance abuse during pregnancy may lead to the following risks:

  • still births
  • miscarriage
  • intrauterine growth restriction
  • placenta previa
  • placenta abruption
  • cognitive problems for children
  • increased risk of substance abuse for children

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists World Congress for 2017 is being held in Cape Town where Dr Louw is speaking.

At the same time, dietitian Kelly Schreuder unpacks the difference between lite and light alcohol, how to reduce consumption and what constitutes moderation.

Take a listen:

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