Fetal alcohol syndrome could arise when a woman drinks alcohol in the course of her pregnancy. For years, the syndrome has been the leading cause of birth defects and mental retardation. The affected children often have learning difficulties, making it hard for them to mingle with other people and excel in school. Sufferers live with the syndrome for the rest of their lives.
It is important for expectant moms to inform their doctors about their alcohol consumption in order to watch out for signs in the baby once he/she is born. Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is absolutely preventable but the effects are completely irreversible. Besides, there is no safe level of alcohol consumption that can guarantee to not cause FAS. It is for this reason that women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant should avoid taking alcohol.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome symptoms
With FAS, the child suffers from the dreadful effects of the alcohol taken by the mother while he/she was still in the womb. The severity of FAS symptoms differ with every individual, ranging from mild to severe. The syndrome develops when a woman drinks alcoholic beverages while she is pregnant. The alcohol seeps through the bloodstream, going to the placenta, and then to the baby’s system. Since alcohol is toxic, it can impede the child’s normal development, resulting in neurological, mental, behavioral and physical problems.
The safe amount of alcohol pregnant woman can consume had not yet been established. Studies have shown that alcohol is harmful throughout the course of pregnancy, but it is most detrimental during the first trimester when the baby’s brain is rapidly developing. The substance interrupts the dispersal of nutrients to the baby’s brain and organs, resulting in skeletal and facial deformities.
The syndrome is evident by the physical, mental and physical deformities. Affected children have distinct facial features exclusive for FAS and these include:
- Small head circumference
- Small and under-developed upper jaw
- Smooth philtrum
- Short nose
- Small eye openings
- Huge epicanthal folds
- Thin upper lip
- Flat nasal bridge
- Flat midface
Fetal alcohol syndrome is categorized into three, and these are:
This stands for fetal alcohol effects and this refers to children who exhibit all the symptoms of FAS. However, these individuals have the mild form of FAS.
This refers to alcohol-related neuro-developmental disorder in which the child has mental or functional abnormalities, including cognitive and behavioral problems. A child with this type of FAS finds it difficult to control his/her impulses, struggles in school and has learning difficulties. He/she also has poor memory and attention, poor mathematical skills and judgment.
This stands for alcohol-related birth defects wherein the affected child has organ problems involving the heart and kidneys. Examples of heart defects are atrial septal defect and ventricular septal defect. He/she also has hearing problems.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome statistics
Statistics showed that FAS affects 1 to 2 babies out of 1,000 births. The prognosis for this condition differs with every individual depending on the severity of damage and physical defects manifested at birth. Those who are diagnosed earlier have better prognosis and do good in life despite their mental disabilities. Early detection enables the doctor to plan an effective treatment strategy that will meet the specific needs of the child.
Despite the fact that FAS is irreversible, the syndrome is 100% preventable. Prevention of FAS involves:
- Complete abstinence from alcohol throughout the entire course of pregnancy.
- Restraining from alcohol consumption when trying to get pregnant.
- Seeking counseling should a woman have problems quitting drinking.
- Abstaining from alcohol throughout the woman’s childbearing years.
- Husbands can also help prevent FAS by abstaining from drinking alcohol and keeping his wife away from drinking sessions.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome diagnosis
The diagnosis of FAS is done based on the criteria established for FAS. One of the criteria is poor growth and low weight at birth. Another criterion is the child’s facial and physical features which mimic those of FAS. Lastly, the child should exhibit developmental and neurologic anomalies. It should be noted that FAS diagnosis is only done if the doctor has ascertained that the symptoms manifested by the child is not due to other medical conditions.
Even if diagnosis is only done after the child is born, the doctor can assess the chances of FAS during pregnancy and watch out for biomarkers of FAS once the child is born. Some of the diagnostics done are pregnancy ultrasound, blood test and brain imaging like MRI or CT scan.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome treatment
Fetal Alcohol syndrome treatment often involves working with a team of health professionals. The primary goal of the treatment is to reduce as well as prevent the syndrome from causing secondary health problems. Part of the treatment plan is specialized education and behavioral therapy. It is also important to maintain a violence-free and nurturing environment for the affected child.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Pictures