Consequences of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
If you are considering having a drink while pregnant, you should first learn the facts about the effects of alcohol on a fetus and the consequences of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Alcohol, including wine and beer, is dangerous to unborn babies, and women of childbearing age should avoid drinking alcohol unless they are using contraception. The Deputy Director of The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that drinking alcohol can permanently alter the development of a baby even before the women knows she is pregnant. In the U.S. many pregnancies are unplanned and women are still drinking alcohol during and after conception. The CDC also states that there is no known safe level of alcohol use during pregnancy. The fetus can be harmed at any stage of pregnancy and The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) recommends that women avoid alcohol completely during pregnancy.
Alcohol is a teratogen, which is a substance that kills or damages cells in the body. When a pregnant women drinks alcohol, so does her unborn baby. There are many physical, behavioral and intellectual disabilities that can last for a child’s lifetime whose origin began with alcohol being consumed during pregnancy. These disabilities are known as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). The CDC states that currently there are about one in twenty children in the U.S. that are affected by FASD. When a pregnant women drinks, the alcohol can quickly reach the fetus’s underdeveloped brain and liver via the placenta. FASD babies are usually born small and may develop brain, kidney and heart problems. Brain damage caused by FASD can be expressed by a low IQ, attention problems, hyperactivity, learning disabilities and poor judgment and reasoning skills. The child may also exhibit an inability to communicate in social settings. These problems caused by FASD often lead to the child suffering from mental illness, substance abuse and other lifelong problems. Other adverse effects of FASD include abnormal facial features, low body weight, shorter than average height, poor memory, small head size, poor coordination, speech and language delays, sleep and sucking problems as a baby, vision or hearing problems and bone problems.
Alcohol use during pregnancy costs the U.S. about $5.5 billion per year. The ACOG recommends that doctors routinely screen women for alcohol use before and during pregnancy. Doctors should provide women with the support they need to stop using alcohol when they are planning a pregnancy or when they become pregnant. Getting women to stop using alcohol during pregnancy will not be easy, especially if they are addicted. Educating the public and women in particular, about the dangers of alcohol to the unborn child may prove to be an effective incentive to stop. Perhaps the doctors could also speak to the fathers of the unborn children and urge them to support the women’s sobriety. It is never too late to stop drinking alcohol.
Depending on the symptoms involved, there are different terms used to describe FASD. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is the most involved end of the spectrum of FASD, and fetal death is the most severe outcome. FAS children may have abnormal growth and central nervous system problems. They usually have difficulty in school and getting along with others. Children with Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder may exhibit intellectual disabilities and problems with behavior and learning. They may do poorly in school and have difficulty with math, attention, judgment, memory and impulse control. Children with Alcohol-Related Birth Defects (ARBD) may have problems with their heart, bones, kidneys or hearing.
There is no cure for FASD and it will last for the lifetime of the individual. Early intervention treatment has been shown to improve a child’s development. Protective factors can help reduce the effects of FASD and help the individual develop and reach their full potential. Protective factors include diagnosing the child before the age of six, and having a loving, non-violent, stable, nurturing home environment throughout the school years. The child should also be involved in special education and child services. There are many treatment options available for FASD that are designed to meet the specific needs of the individual. Medications, behavioral and educational therapy, parental training and other alternative treatments all play a vital role in treating symptoms and overcoming obstacles. While help is available for those suffering from FASD, the best way to prevent FASD is the curb alcohol consumption during the delicate period of pregnancy.