Is Your Child Suffering from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?

Women who are expecting a child, here is something very important that you must know to deliver a healthy baby. Consuming alcohol during pregnancy can cause fetal alcohol syndrome also known as FASD that might harm the fetus in the womb.

Wondering what is fetal alcohol syndrome? Fetal alcohol syndrome is the condition in which the child’s brain is damaged and the growth is retarded due to alcohol exposure during the pregnancy. Although the effect of alcohol consumption varies but most of the defects caused due to fetal alcohol syndrome in the baby are irreversible.

Wondering how much alcohol consumption can harm the fetus in the womb? Well, there is no amount of alcohol that can be considered safe to consume while the woman is pregnant. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy is all about putting your child at the risk.

Diagnosing the condition at an early stage increases the chance of reducing problems like learning difficulties and behavioral issues.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

what is fetal alcohol syndrome

The various consequences associated with drinking alcohol during pregnancy is called fetal alcohol spectrum disorders that include the range of disorders in children.

  • Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder: This includes
  • Intellectual Disabilities
  • Behavioral and Learning Problems
  • Alcohol-Related Birth Defects: This includes
  • Physical Birth Defects
  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: This syndrome includes
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders
  • Birth Defects
  • Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: It is associated with
  • Presence of certain signs of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome caused by drinking alcohol at the time and during pregnancy.
  • Neurobehavioral Disorder Associated with Prenatal Alcohol Exposure: It is associated with problems like
  • Neurocognitive Impairment
  • Poor mental health, and memory
  • Impulsive behaviour

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Facts

If you continue drinking alcohol during your pregnancy, then you are putting your child at risk of developing birth defects. Alcohol Fetal alcohol syndrome is characterized by a wide range of physical, behavioral, and learning difficulties.

Since there are different types of FASD as discussed,

  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
  • Alcohol-Related Birth Defects
  • Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopment Disorder
  • Neurobehavioral Disorder associated with prenatal alcohol exposure.

All these are associated with different but severe conditions and problems that include:

  • Poor vision
  • Difficulty in hearing
  • Poor memory
  • Attention span
  • Difficulty in learning and communicating.

Common Causes and Myth Associated With Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

The most common cause of FASD is drinking alcohol during pregnancy. When a woman drinks alcohol during pregnancy it enters the bloodstream of the unborn baby through the placenta. The increasing concentration of alcohol in the baby’s blood makes it difficult to avail of enough oxygen and nutrition as per the requirement.

The low concentration of oxygen and nutrition affects the growth and development of both the body and brain of the child.

Although it is advised not to consume alcohol at any time of the pregnancy first three months is the most dangerous one. It is therefore advised to avoid consumption of alcohol and other harmful drugs while you are carrying your child in your womb.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in Childhood and Adulthood

The signs of FAS are often not recognized during early childhood but some fetal alcohol syndrome facial features make it easy for people to know how to recognize them.

The child with FAS usually

  • Has low birth weight
  • Lag in growth and development
  • Has different facial patterns and malformation like small eye sockets, smooth skin between the nose and upper lip, flattened cheekbones, etc.
  • Have head size smaller than average size
  • Poor coordination problem like cerebral palsy
  • Mood attention like Autism or Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Also, the child with FAS suffers from Alcohol-Related Birth Defects like heart disease, kidney defect, or problem in skeleton, ears, and eyes.

Most of the time, the child’s teacher is the one who recognized the symptoms of FAS by understanding some of the signs of fetal alcohol syndrome like:

  • Impulsive nature, poor memory, distraction
  • Inability to complete the given tasks on time
  • Poor social skills
  • Hyperactivity, etc.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in Adult

The symptoms are more difficult to understand ones the person reaches its adulthood. A fetal alcohol syndrome statistics a study conducted in the University of Washington around 79% of adults with FASD face employment problems, 60% of sufferers over age 12 had trouble in law while 35% had alcohol and drug problems.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Diagnosis

Early assessment of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome helps in improving the child’s ability and their body functions.

For diagnosing the syndrome, the doctor will discuss some important things to grab

maximum information and the reason behind the disorder.

The expert professionals will discuss:

Drinking during pregnancy: It is always good to offer complete details with your doctor. Reporting the time and amount of alcohol consumption help the doctor in determining the risk of occurrence of fetal alcohol syndrome. Although, it is difficult to diagnose the disorder before the baby is born but helps assess the baby’s and mother’s condition during the phase of pregnancy.

Assessing Signs and Symptoms of FAS During the Initial Period: In this, the doctor will assess the physical and fetal alcohol syndrome facial features of the baby. Also, he will monitor the child’s physical and neurological growth and development.

In this the doctor may assess:

  • Cognitive ability and learning potential of the child
  • Health condition
  • Social and Behavioral Problems
  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Treatment

Since the symptoms and problems associated with FAS cannot be reversed and therefore there is no specific treatment or medication to treat the disease. But early diagnosis of the disease can help in improving the development and condition of the child.

Seeing the growing number of children with such syndrome many counseling services contribute to the effective treatment of the disorder. There are rehab centers where the mother who is addicted to alcohol consumption finds a better way to improve her condition.

Some of the intervention services that can improve the condition of the child are:

A team of teachers, speech therapists, a physical and occupational therapist who help in providing special education and skills.

  • Helping children to learn walking, talking, etc
  • Medications to reduce symptoms
  • Medicines to improve vision, heart abnormalities.
  • Counseling and Family support.

Here we will discuss some of the supportive aid that helps the child in improving their condition.

Family Support

The family support plays a very vital role to reduce the symptoms of the child suffering from FASD. It is good to get in touch with your health care provider, the social worker who can offer great support for children with such syndrome.

Reducing Behavioral Problems

Following are some of the useful information that would help in dealing with some behavioral problems like:

  • Understanding the child’s strengths and working on their weaknesses.
  • Helping them to plan and implement their daily routines
  • Creating simple rules
  • Repeating things to strengthen their learning
  • Offering gifts and rewards to child contribute to reinforcing their behavior

Protective Treatment

Although the disease does not have any permanent treatment but treating it at an early stage offer better results.

Some of the protective factors for FAS are

  • Diagnosis of the syndrome before the age of 6.
  • Loving and supportive home environment
  • Keeping children away from violence
  • Offering special education.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Statistics and Facts

Many approaches and studies are being conducted to know how many persons suffer from FASDs. It includes exposure of the baby to alcohol while in the womb.

According to CDC studies, 0.2 to 1.5 of infants among 1000 birth in the US suffers from FAS.

Another study conducted by the CDC around 0.3 out of 1000 children is found to be the sufferer of the disease at the age of 7 to 9 years.

A few estimates according to all other studies conducted by the National Institute of Health-Funded Community the number of children suffering from the disorder is equal to 1-5 per 100 children going to school.

One of the reports, New Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), CDC researchers concluded that around 1-9% of pregnant women drink alcohol from the past 30 years. Among them, the women who are pregnant and consuming alcohol are engaged in binge drinking.

Other Findings Associated With FAS

A complete study to evaluate the number of women drinking alcohol and children suffering from poor growth and poor mental health is conducted in different parts of the United States.

The study was conducted to know the women who drink alcohol at least once in 30 days.

  • The study done uses self-reported data that was collected from the ‘Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System’. The system is a state-based landline or mobile phone survey among the US population.
  • To evaluate alcohol use and binge drinking among pregnant women age 18-44 the data was collected from the 2015-2017 BRFSS that includes the analysis report from all the 50 states of the US and district of Columbia.
  • After evaluating the binge drinker, the frequency number and intensity of binge drinking was also estimated.

According to the study the following findings and conclusions are withdrawn:

  • 1 in 9 pregnant women drinking alcohol once a month.
  • 1/3 pregnant women engaged in binge drinking.
  • Pregnant women reported under binge drinking reports an average or 4.5 binge-drinking episode 

Bottom Line

Exposure of baby to alcohol while in the mother’s womb is harmful to the brain and body’s growth and development. Proper and timely screening of alcohol use, along with counseling by an expert helps in reducing the occurrence of the syndrome and other major complications during and after pregnancy.

Taking care of your body, mind, and diet while you are carrying a baby not only improves the chance of delivering the baby with a healthy mind and body but also prevents you from facing troublesome consequences post-pregnancy.

Stay alert, stay healthy and give birth to a healthy life.

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