Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

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According to the medical research literature, a woman who drinks alcohol while she is pregnant may harm her unborn baby.

How is this possible? When a mother drinks alcohol, the alcohol she has ingested can pass from her blood into the baby's blood.

When this happens, the alcohol in the baby's blood can damage and affect the growth of his or her cells, particularly the cells in the brain and in the spinal cord.

Furthermore, the alcohol in the baby's blood can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome, one of the leading causes of mental retardation in the United States.

And it might be added that fetal alcohol syndrome is 100% preventable.

The Scope of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Fetal alcohol syndrome is a combination of physical and mental birth defects that affects about 6% of the babies born to women who are alcoholics or alcohol abusers.

As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year in the United States, somewhere between 1,300 and 8,000 babies are born with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).

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Keep in mind that while fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is the consequence of regular and excessive alcohol consumption during pregnancy, fetal alcohol effects (FAE), on the other hand, are a result of moderate drinking throughout pregnancy.

Characteristics of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

What are some of the characteristics of fetal alcohol syndrome? Many babies with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) not only have underdeveloped brains that are small and abnormally formed but they also have underdeveloped organs, especially the heart, the urinary tract, and the kidneys.

Not only this, but babies with FAS manifest various intellectual disabilities; a short attention span; behavioral problems; deformities of the fingers, limbs, and the joints; physical disabilities; poor muscle tone; some degree of mental/emotional disability; and/or poor coordination.

Regrettably, even if they are not mentally retarded, adolescents and adults with FAS commonly exhibit different degrees of learning, behavioral, and emotional problems and typically find it difficult to maintain a job and to live independently.

In addition, children with FAS may have distinct facial features such as small flat cheeks, a short or upturned nose, and/or small eyes.

Moreover, children with FAS are almost always short and thin and commonly have atypically small heads.

Not only this, but children with fetal alcohol syndrome commonly grow slowly and frequently exhibit a poor appetite, a situation, it may be emphasized, that compounds their atypical growth.

To further complicate matters, it can be pointed out that the parents of children with FAS may experience frustration due to the rigorous demands made on them.

Facts About Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

The following list characterizes some of the more important and representative statistics and facts about fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects:

  • Fetal alcohol syndrome takes place in 30% to 50% of U.S. pregnancies in which the mother drinks regularly and excessively throughout the pregnancy.

  • At least 762,000 U.S. children born each year are exposed to alcohol during pregnancy.

  • Fetal alcohol syndrome in the United States in 2004 was reported to range from 0.2 to 1.5 cases per thousand live births.

  • Fetal alcohol syndrome annually affects 1 to 2 babies per 1,000 born on a worldwide basis.

  • Fetal alcohol effects has been observed in children of mothers who consumed as few as two drinks per week during pregnancy.

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 1,300 and 8,000 babies are born with fetal alcohol syndrome each year in the United States.

  • Fetal alcohol syndrome affects roughly 6% of the babies born to U.S. women who are alcohol abusers or alcohol dependent.

  • Fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects are the leading causes of mental retardation in the United States.

Treatment of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

While fetal alcohol syndrome is a permanent condition and cannot be cured, the treatment of fetal alcohol syndrome is achievable to a certain extent.

For instance, people with various characteristics of fetal alcohol syndrome can be helped with eyeglasses or hearing aids.

Organ abnormalities may require corrective surgery. When they go to school, people with fetal alcohol syndrome may need special education and access to social service agencies.

As children with fetal alcohol syndrome get older, they may need special services and support to help them live on their own.

Fetal alcohol syndrome practitioners and scientists have identified several factors that tend to improve the outcome of someone with fetal alcohol syndrome. Some of these factors include:

  • Early diagnosis

  • Special education and social services

  • A loving, nurturing, and stable household environment

  • An absence of violence

The Early Diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Children who are diagnosed early have an improved fetal alcohol syndrome prognosis. More specifically, a child who is diagnosed early in life can be placed in the appropriate special educational class and given access to social services that can benefit the child and his or her family.

Additionally, an early fetal alcohol syndrome diagnosis frequently helps families and educators understand why the child might act or react differently from other children in certain circumstances.

Conclusion: Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

One of the key facts about fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is that it is one of the most common known causes of infant mental retardation and is the only cause of this deformity that is 100 percent avoidable.

Some of the characteristics of fetal alcohol syndrome include abnormal facial features, growth retardation, central nervous system problems, and behavioral and emotional disabilities.

Although there is no cure, the treatment of fetal alcohol syndrome is possible.

Organ deformities may require surgery, the person with eye disabilities may need glasses/contact lenses, and the person with hearing difficulties may require the use of a hearing aid.

Special education classes and access to social service agencies have also been demonstrated to benefit a person who has fetal alcohol syndrome.

Even though the risk for fetal alcohol syndrome and for alcohol-related cell damage in the baby is higher when the mother engages in abusive and excessive drinking, the research literature has demonstrated that even the slightest amount of alcohol may affect the unborn baby.

The bottom line, therefore, is this: if you want to totally avoid the possibility of alcohol-related damage or disabilities in your unborn child, then abstain from all drinking while you are pregnant.

And by the way, according to medical research, this is the advice of more than a few doctors.

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The Bottom Line

The bottom line, therefore, is this: if you want to totally avoid the possibility of alcohol-related damage or disabilities in your unborn child, then abstain from all drinking while you are pregnant.

And by the way, according to medical research, this is the advice of more than a few doctors.

Note: if you are pregnant and cannot stop drinking, consider making it a priority to talk with an alcohol abuse and alcoholism professional about getting alcohol treatment as soon as possible.

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