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Experts warn that effects of drinking while pregnant similar to Zika virus

Health & Science

NAIROBI: Do not count yourself lucky that your unborn child is safe from the Zika virus because you have never set foot in Brazil. According to a new study, alcohol when pregnant can cause the abnormalities associated with the dreaded virus.

According to the study published by the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) on February 4, it is not only the Zika virus that can cause physical abnormalities and intellectual disabilities but also drinking alcohol when pregnant. CDC noted that drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause foetal alcohol spectrum disorders, which are physical, behavioural and intellectual disabilities that last a lifetime.

To avoid such cases, the CDC has advised women who are sexually active and cannot put down that irresistible glass of wine to stick to family planning. The report states that any type of alcohol; ranging from beer to mild wine, can harm the unborn child way before a woman knows she is pregnant.

"Women who are pregnant or who might be pregnant should be aware that any level of alcohol use could is harmful. All types of alcohol can be harmful, including all wine and beer," read the report in part.

"The baby's brain, body and organs are developing throughout pregnancy and can be affected by alcohol at any time. Drinking while pregnant can also increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, pre-maturity and sudden infant death syndrome."

These are the same impacts associated with Zika virus.

The report was combined from United States statistics where more than three million US women are at risk of exposing their developing babies to alcohol because they are drinking, having sex, and not using birth control to prevent pregnancy.

"Three in four women who want to get pregnant as soon as possible report drinking alcohol. However, 100 per cent fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are completely preventable," read the CDC report.

According to a recently released survey by the Kenya Demographic Health Survey, alcoholism prevalence among women is high among those aged between 45 to 49 years (16 per cent).

Those aged 35 to 39 years come second at 8.1 per cent, 25 to 29-years-olds are at 4.6 per cent while 30 to 34-year-olds are at 4.1 per cent. Those in the 20 to 24-years age bracket were found least likely to drink every day, at 1.9 per cent. There are about 1.2 million new births annually.

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