Every 1 in 10 children born in the country is at risk of developing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum (FASD). In addition, the recent CDC statics show that more than 10.2 percent of pregnant women consume alcohol. Unfortunately, the number is rising, which makes spreading awareness about the disorder more crucial than ever to prevent the next generation from FASD.
Women across the country need to know how unsafe alcohol consumption can lead to severe consequences. Whether you’re an experienced mother or a first-time mom-to-be, learning about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and its preventive measures is essential for your newborn’s health.
Therefore, the article includes comprehensive information on FASD to help you keep the risks at bay.
What is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or FASD is one of the most acute fetal alcohol spectrum diseases. The condition primarily develops in an unborn baby (fetus) when a pregnant mother consumes alcohol (any form) during pregnancy.
Typically, FASD is a group of various symptoms that may appear together in the form of an abnormal condition or specific disease. These disorders include;
- Birth malformations caused by alcohol
- Partial fetal alcohol syndrome
- Neurodevelopment disorder
- Neurobehavioral disorder due to prenatal alcohol exposure
It is worth mentioning the effects of FASD and other spectrum disorders may vary depending on several factors. If not treated on time, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome can be a life-long condition that is hard to cure.
Over the years, FAS symptoms can deteriorate and impact your child’s life. Drinking even a small amount of alcohol during pregnancy can increase the risk of damage to your developing fetus. However, women can prevent the condition by avoiding alcohol or alcoholic beverages during pregnancy.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Causes
In the United States, drinking alcohol, which includes beer, wine, and liquor, is the leading preventable cause of many birth abnormalities. Because a baby’s liver isn’t fully formed in the womb, it doesn’t break down or process alcohol. As a result, it can enter the baby’s body and harm the organs.
When a pregnant woman consumes alcohol during pregnancy;
- It enters your blood and reaches the developing fetus through the placenta.
- It causes higher alcohol concentrations in the developing baby compared to the body. It happens because a fetus has slower metabolism to process alcohol than an adult.
- It interferes with oxygen delivery and optimal nutrition for the developing baby.
- It can affect organ and tissue development, causing permanent brain damage in the baby.
These major issues occur when pregnant women drink alcohol in their first trimester. It is the time when a baby’s brain is developing. However, the following trimesters are not risk-free either. The brain is still in the developmental phase, and moderate alcohol consumption can interrupt the process.
That is to say, drinking alcohol during pregnancy is never safe, regardless of when and how much you drink.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Symptoms
Fetal alcohol syndrome symptoms and signs might vary. One individual might only experience a few symptoms while another may develop them all.
FAS can cause both physical and mental challenges. FAS patients may experience apparent delays in body growth and development and changes to their face and limbs. Emotional and mental challenges may also arise throughout a person’s life. These may impact their social, academic, and professional activities.
Here are some symptoms infants and children can experience due to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
Symptoms in Infants
- Abnormal face features such as a smooth ridge between upper lip and nose, small eyes, and lower lip
- Short height
- Low body weight
- Difficulty in sleeping and sucking
- Small or abnormal head size
- Hearing or vision problems
Early Childhood Symptoms
Symptoms that develop over time in individuals with fetal alcohol syndrome are:
- Delayed language and speech development
- Difficulty understanding the difference between fantasy and reality
- Short attention span or difficulty concentration
- Learning disabilities
- Poor coordination
- Low IQ
- Poor academic performance
- Declining short-term memory
- Poor judgment and reasoning skills
How the Disease is Diagnosed
Diagnosing Fetal Alcohol syndrome is difficult as there is no direct test or examination for FAS. Also, in many cases, pregnant women don’t provide their alcohol consumption history. Most pediatric providers make FAS diagnoses based on specific physical signs and a child’s size that develop during childhood.
Following are some diagnostic methods/ways/signs doctors use to identify FAS;
- History of alcohol consumption by the pregnant mother during pregnancy
- Abnormal face features (connection between and upper lip, an upper lip, small eyes, and nose)
- Small head size at birth and during childhood
- Behavioral and emotional issues such as hyperactivity, difficulty paying attention, and poor judgment
To reiterate, alcohol consumption during pregnancy may cause Fetal Alcohol Spectrum disorders. These behavioral, physical, and intellectual disabilities can last a lifetime. Often, an individual with FASD has a combination of these problems.
What do Pregnant Women Need To Understand?
Pregnant women should be aware of the fact that consuming any level of alcohol could harm their developing babies. Any type of alcohol is harmful, including beer and wine. The body organs and brain development continue throughout pregnancy, and drinking alcohol can affect it in numerous ways.
During pregnancy, alcohol use increases the risk of stillbirth, miscarriage, sudden fetus death syndrome (SIDS), and preterm (early) birth.
To prevent this, women should:
- Speak with their healthcare provider about pregnancy plans, alcohol use, and safe ways to avoid pregnancy if they are not ready.
- Stop alcohol consumption if they are trying to conceive or can get pregnant.
- Seek help from their partners, friends, and families. Ask them to support the choice to avoid drinking during pregnancy.
FAS could lead to tragic results if not addressed or prevented timely. Pregnant women should have a sufficient understanding of FAS and ways to avoid it. It is always better to seek help from a counselor or healthcare expert if you want to keep your infant safe and healthy.