What is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)?

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome can be described as a condition which results from exposure of alcohol in the time of pregnancy. This type of disorder always involves impaired growth, brain damage as well as face and head abnormalities. Consumption of alcohol in the time of pregnancy hasn’t been proven to be safe when a woman is pregnant. Even alcohol in small amount during pregnancy can cause learning and memory problems in the child. FAS happen to be a lifelong, irreversible condition which can have serious effect on the life of the child along with the family.   

Causes of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)

When a woman who is pregnant drinks alcohol, the alcohol flows through the bloodstream to reach the developing foetus after crossing placenta. As metabolism of alcohol occurs slowly in the foetus than in adults, the unborn baby’s concentration of blood alcohol tend to be much higher than that of the body of the mother. It can interfere with delivery of optimal nutrition and oxygen to the baby’s organs, tissues and brains. If the mother happens to be a heavy alcohol drinker, impairment of heart, facial features, nervous system and bones can take place during 1st trimester.

Risk Factors Associated with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)

Alcohol consumption in the time of pregnancy is one of the biggest risk factors associated with FAS. Apart from that, there are quite a few other factors that can affect the foetus vulnerability like:

  • Unplanned Pregnancy
  • Improper knowledge regarding the risks associated with drinking in the time of pregnancy
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Continuing alcoholism without detecting early pregnancy
  • High maternal age
  • Nutritional Status
  • Stress levels

Gene polymorphisms and genetic makeup also play a certain role towards affecting the foetus for FAS.

Signs and Symptoms of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Similar to any other syndrome, FAS includes a combination of symptoms and signs which appear together indicating a specific condition. Children born with FAS tend to have abnormalities in their faces, have nervous system problems and develop less unlike other children.

Facial Impacts

  • Eye opening are small
  • Small head
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Webbing between nose base and eyes
  • Flattened cheekbones
  • Thin and smooth upper lip
  • Upturned, short nose

Other Physical Impacts

  • Slow physical development
  • Small weight and body size

Mental and Behavioural Impacts

  • Small size of brain
  • Severe to mild mental retardation
  • Poor memory
  • Learning disabilities
  • Poor coordination
  • Lack of curiosity or imagination
  • Anxiety
  • Impulsiveness
  • Social withdrawal
  • Criminal behaviour
  • Stubbornness

Does Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) have Long Term Effects?

Studies conducted throughout different countries of the world have been successful in establishing that alcohol exposure during prenatal development can have long term consequences on intellectual development, physical development, social development, behaviour, independence, occupation and sexual behaviour or sexuality. Impairment of occupational and social future of a child can also occur because of alcohol exposure in the time of prenatal development. Criminal and gang behaviour, psychiatric problems, incomplete education and unemployment can also result from FAS.

Prevention for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)

  • Stop Drinking

The most crucial step towards preventing FAS in an unborn child is to stop drinking during pregnancy.

  • Government Programs and Initiatives

There are plenty of programs run by different organisations focussing on educating women about the effects of drinking in the time of pregnancy. Pregnant women can join such programs to get the proper assistance and support.

  • Understanding the Fact that Even Small Amounts of Alcohol can be Dangerous to the Unborn Child

It is extremely important for pregnant women to understand that alcohol even in small amounts can cause adverse effects on the unborn child.

  • The Child’s Future

Children born with FAS tend to develop psychiatric difficulties, unlawful behaviours as well as social withdrawal. All these things can ruin the entire future of a child and can also prove devastating for the entire family.  Considering all these factors, the mother should refrain herself from drinking alcohol in the time of pregnancy.

Diagnosis for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Diagnosis of FAS is not possible before the birth of the child however doctors assess the mother’s health as well as baby’s health in the time of pregnancy to ensure that everything is alright. If the mother reports the alcohol consumption amount and the time, the doctor can assess risk of development of FAS in the unborn child. When the mother informs the doctor about consumption of alcohol in the time of pregnancy, the doctor keeps a close watch for the symptoms and signs of FAS during the initial weeks and months. If the child seems to develop FAS then, the doctor might also refer the child to some specialist in medical genetics to make sure that the symptoms and signs are not indicating any other disorder.

What is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) Differential Diagnosis?

Even though, there isn’t any kind of diagnosis for FAS but, after proper evaluation of the symptoms and signs, a specialist in medical genetics is consulted so as to discard the possibilities of disorders with identical symptoms and signs. Early diagnosis and recognition of FAS helps to provide a child with appropriate care and attention. When the family of a child is caring and loving, it becomes easy for him/her to live a decent life. The extra understanding and help assists them to cope up with different problems without getting into trouble.

Treatment for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)

Specific treatments for FAS are not available and the only way to stop FAS is to stop drinking in the time of pregnancy. Women with drinking problems can join some rehabilitation programs so as to get proper assistance and care during pregnancy. If the child is diagnosed early with FAS then, appropriate steps can be taken to make sure that the child does not face much of a difficulty in future life. For FAS diagnosis, it is important for the doctor to determine that the child has slow normal growth, impaired facial features as well as problems in nervous system.

Important Facts about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)

  • FAS happen to be a major mental retardation cause in Canada, North America as well as South Africa.
  • One out of every 8 children in United States has FAS.
  • Number of people affected with FAS tends to be higher than people with HIV/AIDS.
  • One alcohol drink every day is more or less equal to thirty bottles of a baby full with alcohol which passes on to the unborn child.
  • People with this disorder have low IQ’s and distinct facial features but, low addiction and crime rates.

Reference

  1. http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=3415
  2. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/fetal-alcohol-syndrome/DS00184/DSECTION=causes
  3. http://www.thirdage.com/hc/c/fetal-alcohol-syndrome-risk-factors
  4. http://alcoholism.about.com/od/fas/a/fasd_symptoms.htm
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16832326
  6. http://www.wikihow.com/Prevent-Fetal-Alcohol-Syndrome
  7. http://www.patient.co.uk/health/fetal-alcohol-syndrome
  8. http://www.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/fetal-alcohol-syndrome/
  9. http://library.thinkquest.org/C0127302/ThinkFASpage4.htm
  10. http://www.uaa.alaska.edu/centerforhumandevelopment/fulllives/pastconferences/upload/Interesting-Facts.pdf

 

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