What is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?

fetal-alcoholFetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and the effects of alcohol on the fetus (FAE) are conditions associated with alcohol consumption during pregnancy. FAS causes variety of impairments to the baby such as mental and physical development. The effects of alcohol on the fetus is a less severe form of FAS.

If a pregnant woman drinks alcohol at any time during her pregnancy, alcohol crosses the placenta to the fetus. Alcohol damages the cells in fetal development. The brain and the central nervous system are particularly sensitive to alcohol and are likely to suffer permanent damage. During pregnancy, there is no minimum amount of alcohol that is safe, because any quantity can have a certain effect.


Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Causes

FAS and effects of alcohol on the fetus are caused by the ingestion of alcohol by the mother during pregnancy. Alcohol affects the brain and nervous system of the developing baby and lead to mental health problems and physical development. The following factors have an influence on the onset and severity of FAS or FAE:

  • Phase of pregnancy during which the mother has drunk alcohol
  • Quantity and frequency of alcohol consumption
  • General health status of the mother
  • Resources that the mother had access.

The consumption of alcohol in any form is dangerous to the fetus. Alcohol is officially classified as a known teratogenic which means it can cause birth defects in the fetus.If a pregnant woman drinks more alcohol, their fetus is more at risk of being affected by FAS or FAE. Alcohol consumption in early pregnancy can cause certain changes in the facial features of the baby, the formation of the heart and other organs as well as bones and central nervous system.

Each year, the incidence of FAS occurs in approximately 1 case for every 500 to 3,000 live births. It is also estimated that approximately 1,000 babies are born with effects of fetal alcohol (FAE) each year. The lack of awareness of the teratogenic effects of alcohol on a developing fetus is one of the reasons for the high rate of FAS and FAE.


Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Symptoms And Complications

A child who has fetal alcohol syndrome presents anomalies at birth or during development.Most common physical effects of FAS are :

  • Abnormalities of the central nervous system (problems of the development of the brain and behavior)
  • Particular morphology of certain facial features (see below)
  • Delay of growth

One of the signs of central nervous system abnormalities include delayed development, behavioral problems, learning problems and iq deficits. For example, children with FAS can acquire the ability to speak or walk later than normal children. There may be problems of behavior such as hyperactivity, nervousness, anxiety and decreased attention span.

The facial malformations are characterized by a narrowing of the slit of the eyelids or drooping eyelids, the thinness of the upper lip, flattening of the face and the absence of a sulcus distinct between the upper lip and the nose.

Child with FAS or FAE can be small for his age than normal children. At birth, the baby may be of a size less than the average or have a small head. Among the other abnormalities are malformations of the internal organs such as the heart, liver and kidneys. Impaired vision and hearing may also exist. Children with FAS are often naive. As they have bad skills of judgment and decision-making which maket them sometimes leave to go to an abusive consumption of alcohol or other drugs and have difficulties with the justice system when they are older.


Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Diagnosis

The diagnosis of FAS in a child is based on a history of ingestion of alcohol of the mother, physical examination of the child and the observation of it. It may also be that the doctor to make an assessment of the iq of the child and examine it to see if he has learning difficulties. The results will guide child to get programs and services in school that will help him learn. It may be that a doctor request a genetic test to exclude the possibility of a genetic disorder.


Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Treatment and Prevention

A pregnant woman can prevent Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and effects of alcohol on the fetus (FAE) in her baby by not drinking alcohol at all during the entire duration of her pregnancy. If a woman learns that she is pregnant and has already drank alcohol during her pregnancy, best solution is to refrain from drinking more. Thus, it will prevent the opportunity to submit her baby to greater damage.

What a woman must primarily be remembered to prevent FAS and FAE are:

Do not drink alcohol at all during pregnancy

Do not drink alcohol if she plans to conceive

Seek medical help or professional if she drinks regularly and she can’t prevent it during her pregnancy.

There is no way to reverse the damage caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol. The mental and physical disabilities associated with FAS / FAE last throughout life. However, there are ways to help persons which are diagnosed with FAS or conditions of the same kind.

Children with FAS and FAE require good nutrition to help them grow and develop. During the growth of the child, the parents can take care of the behavioral problems associated with FAS or FAE, as they can:

  • Be as informed as possible about the condition
  • Get help from qualified professionals
  • Educating teachers and family members
  • Find support groups in the community
  • Establish rules that the child should comply with
  • Rewarding acceptable behaviours of the child
  • Give the child a series of daily tasks

Medications are available to treat certain behavioral problems such as hyperactivity and attention deficit disorders (ADHD) in children with FAS. Medications such as dextroamphetamine sulphate and methylphenidate are for attention deficit disorder and attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity (ADHD).

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