Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

A pregnant woman’s lifestyle ultimately affects the development of her baby. Excessive exposure to alcohol during pregnancy can inflict serious, permanent physical and mental damage on her child. When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol she is making her child drink also. In knowing how Fetal Alcohol Syndrome can be prevented, what the symptoms are, and who and what make up the risk factors fetal alcohol syndrome can be better understood.

The National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome states “Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is the name given to a group of physical and mental birth defects that are the direct result of a woman’s drinking during pregnancy” (NOFAS 1). Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is the only disease that is one hundred percent preventable if the mother refrains from drinking while pregnant. Drinking liquor at all during pregnancy is not advisable. There is no way of measuring how much alcohol one can consume before defects occur, and no proof that small amounts of liquor are safe.

As little as one drink a day can cause a baby some degree of harm and interfere with their normal development. The more the mother drinks the greater the risk of damage to the baby. “The Syndrome occurs in anywhere from point five to three live births per thousand in western countries…It is estimated that between thirty and forty percent of all woman who drink heavily during pregnancy will have a child afflicted with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome…Fetal Alcohol Syndrome outranks Down’s Syndrome in prevalence and is the leading case of mental retardation” (Britanica 1).

Once the damage is done it cannot be undone. Babies who are born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome suffer symptoms that are permanent. Without a doubt the easiest way to prevent these defects is to not drink alcohol at all during pregnancy. Education also plays a vital role in prevention. The more people know about the effects of maternal drinking, the less likely they will drink while pregnant. The risks of drinking as little as one or two drinks a day may not seem like much yet they can cause a lifetime of birth defects.

Symptoms of Fetal Alcohol syndrome are present not only at birth, but also during gestation. Low prenatal growth, and birth weight are common primary signs. A small head, small eye openings, droopy eye lids, a short upturned nose, thin upper lip, and small jaw are just some of the many physical abnormalities that can occur with chronic drinking. The physical birth defects are devastating yet just as much damage is unseen by the naked eye. Central nervous system defects such as Mental Retardation and behavior disorders can be seen.

Poor concentration, impulsiveness and lack of judgment have a severe impact on the child’s overall development. Children with behavior problems also do worse than normal children in school. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome children have problems paying attention, score lower in mathematics and spelling, and have lower I. Q scores. Not only do these defects get worse as the child ages, the vicious cycle of alcohol abuse is also very likely to continue. Fetal Alcohol syndrome children are more likely to become alcohol dependant adults than children of mothers who did not drink.

All the devastating disabilities last a lifetime. Early and accurate diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is crucial. The National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome states, “Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is widely misdiagnosed and under diagnosed, less than ten percent of medical schools require students to complete a course on the proper diagnosis and referral of individuals with alcoholism and other drug related addictions” (NOFAS 1). Knowing who is at risk can help our knowledge of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Pregnant woman can compromise the health of their children by drinking alcohol. Not only does exposure cause severe birth defects, but also certain people are more at risk than others for developing Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Age, race, social class and occupation play a big part in determining who is more at risk. Yet Fetal Alcohol syndrome does not discriminate, every one who drinks alcohol while pregnant is at risk. Certain other issues can also increase a mother’s chances of her baby developing the Syndrome.

Certain people are genetically predisposed to be vulnerable to alcohol; this may increase the effects of drinking liquor on the fetus. Also drinking large amounts of alcohol combined with lack of nutrients can also make the unborn child severely malnourished. This leads to the fetus being more susceptible to the effects of alcohol as it tries to get its nutrients from the liquor. The dangers of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome are entirely preventable if the pregnant mother abstains from drinking alcohol while pregnant. There is no known cure for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

The series of physical and mental defects that comprise this Syndrome are irreversible. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is the only cause of birth defects that are totally one hundred percent preventable. Drinking any amount of alcohol during pregnancy is not advisable. Through education and intervention these defects can be stopped. Knowing who is at risk and how to prevent it is the first step. It is everyone’s responsibility to encourage friends and family not to drink while pregnant. Nine months of drinking alcohol by the mother can cause a lifetime of irreversible damage for the child.


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