Fetal alcohol syndrome is a broad term that is used to describe a specific pattern of mental and physical defects that can develop in a fetus as a result of mother’s consumption of alcohol during pregnancy. Actually, it is considered that alcohol is the major known preventable cause of mental and physical birth defects in the Western world. It is estimated that between 0.2-1.5 babies, per every 1000 live births, are born with a fetal alcohol syndrome. Each year another 40,000 babies are born with fetal alcohol effects, only in the United States.
Signs and symptoms of the fetal alcohol syndrome
Children born with fetal alcohols syndrome are typically characterized by stunned growth. These individuals have below the average height, and they are usually underweight. Their characteristic facial features include smooth groove between the nose and upper lip, thinning of the upper lip, and very small eye openings. The presence of these symptoms typically indicates brain damage, even though the brain damage may exist even in the absence of these common facial features. Structural abnormalities include small head size, abnormalities in brain structure, problems with migration and organization of brain cells, etc.
These children usually have a severe developmental delay, lack of imagination of curiosity, poor fine motor skills, learning difficulties and problems with memory, as well as various behavioral problems (hyperactivity, anxiety, impulsiveness, stubbornness, etc.)
Prevention of the fetal alcohol syndrome
Even though alcohol remains the leading known preventable cause of birth defects, women tend to consume alcohol even while they are expecting to become mothers. According to the most recent surveys among the pregnant women in the United States, about 10 to 15 percent of them reports having recently used alcohol and no less than 30 percent of them admits using alcohol at some point during pregnancy.
The only certain way to prevent the fetal alcohol syndrome is to stop using alcohol during pregnancy. All women are advised to abstain from alcohol while they are pregnant, and even if they are only planning a pregnancy. Sometimes, a woman can make the irreversible damage to the embryo in the early stages of pregnancy, when she still has no idea that she is expecting a child. There are no medically established guidelines for safe levels of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Even the low or moderate consumption is not yet proven harmless.
Women should feel free to discuss their concerns with a medical care provider and be encouraged to seek medical help if they think they are unable to restrain from alcohol during the pregnancy. A professional will determine the woman's level of dependence and tailor the most appropriate treatment plan.