What is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, also known as F.A.S. is a collection of birth defects and abnormalities that stem from a fetus’s exposure to alcohol while in the womb. These conditions do not resolve at birth and remain throughout the child’s life.
FAS is also one of the primary causes of intellectual and developmental disability in children. It is a part of a group of prenatal alcohol exposure related disorders that are referred to as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. FAS is the most critical and severe of these disorders and can even result in the death of the fetus. The syndrome, which was first described in 1968 by Dr. Paul Lemoine in France, was given the official name of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in 1973 by Drs. Kenneth Jones and David Smith at the Medical School of the University of Washington. It is known to affect roughly five out of 10,000 babies that are born on a yearly basis.
Symptoms and Signs of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
There are certain signs and symptoms that indicate a baby is suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome. In some instances, these signs may start to manifest even before a child is born. For example, while in the womb a baby’s growth may be stunted or slowed down, and this impairment will continue even after the birth of the child. His or her facial features also often show signs of the disorder. Typical facial signs of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome include a small head and upper jaw, an upper lip that is thin and smooth, and eyes that are small yet have larger epicanthal folds. Smooth skin may also be noted in the space that separates the child’s upper lip and nose. The baby may have or develop ventricle or atrial septal defects or other heart problems. As the child gets older, intellectual and developmental problems may become increasingly apparent, particularly in the areas of thinking, movement, social skills, and speech. Children and adults with FAS may also have problems with a shorter attention span, anxiety, and poor control over their impulses. Poor coordination and physical signs such as limb and finger deformities and decreased muscle tone may also be present.
How is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Caused and Prevented?
Consuming alcoholic drinks, including wine and beer, during one’s pregnancy, is the known cause of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. When a pregnant woman drinks, the alcohol remains in the fetus’ system much longer because it’s still-developing body is not yet able to break it down as an adult would. Additionally, because of the size of the fetus, its alcohol levels are significantly higher. As a result the alcohol negatively impacts and impairs developing systems in the fetus. Because drinking alcohol is a personal decision that a woman makes, it is a preventable problem, this is one of the more severe effects of alcohol abuse. To prevent a child from being born with this condition a woman should avoid any type of alcoholic drink during her pregnancy as even mild consumption of alcohol can affect a fetus and it increases the chances of FAS. Ideally, women who are trying to become pregnant should also avoid alcohol in the event that they are successful. Although the father’s use of alcohol does not directly impact the fetus, by discontinuing he can help make abstaining easier for the mother-to-be. Seeking help before there could be a problem is often the best course of action, at Morningside Recovery, we offer an alcohol addiction treatment program, call (855) 416-8202 today for more assistance.
By Michelle Conway