Fetal Alcohol Syndrome – Pictures, Characteristics, Effects, Facts

Majority of developmental and physical birth defects reported in US are because of pregnant women consuming alcohol. It has been estimated that every 760 child born in United States, 1 child is born with Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is a condition that is caused due to alcohol abuse during pregnancy. The condition is associated with number of problems including mental abnormalities, physical deformities, short-sightedness, problem learning and behavioural problems. These symptoms may differ from child to child but these problems are irreversible.

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If the pregnant woman consumes alcohol, it may pass through placental barrier and affect fetal growth, destroy nervous system, damages brain structure thereby affecting both psychological and behavioural activities.

As a whole, women who consume wine, beer, liquor or any form of alcohol during pregnancy risks giving birth to a baby who might have some kind of mental, physical and functional deficiencies which lasts for lifetime.

Signs and Symptoms of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)

Depending upon the severity of child affected by Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, the symptoms of the syndrome may vary to some degrees.

  • Low birth weight
  • Smaller heads
  • Failure to thrive
  • Organ dysfunction
  • Small birth circumference
  • Developmental delay
  • Epilepsy
  • Reduced curiosity and willingness
  • Lack of socializing skills
  • Poor motor skills
  • Short memory
  • Abnormal joints and limbs
  • Difficulty in learning particularly concepts related to calculations, comprehension, time, money and problem-solving skills
  • Behavioural problems like stubbornness, hyperactivity, anxiety and impulsiveness.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is also associated with various facial abnormalities such as flat cheekbones, reduced eye opening and improper development of grove between nose and upper lip. The FAS facial features are:

  1. Smooth philtrum: Increased alcohol exposure causes groove or divot between nose and upper lip to flatten.
  2. Thin Vermilion: The upper lip becomes thin with too much prenatal alcohol exposure.
  3. Small Palpebral fissures: Increased prenatal exposure to alcohol causes eye width to reduce.

The symptoms are although evident during childhood but they are intensified as the child becomes adult. These signs are accompanied with few more symptoms including health problems, trouble understanding the rules and regulations and children’s inability to live independently.

Diagnosis of FAS

Typically following criteria is followed to diagnose Fetal Alcohol Syndrome:

  • Growth deficiency:  If Postnatal and Prenatal height/weight is found to be below 10 percent.
  • Facial abnormalities: If all three or at least two FAS facial features are present.
  • Damaged Central Nervous System: Impairment of Central Nervous System structurally, neurologically and functionally.
  • Prenatal alcohol abuse: If alcohol is consumed in any stage of pregnancy knowingly or unknowingly.

Alcohol consumption by biological mother during pregnancy is determined via interview. In addition to this available birth records, chemical dependency treatment records and physical examination are carried out to diagnose FAS in baby.

How much alcohol-consumption can be dangerous?

It is obvious that alcohol abuse is dangerous but what about those pregnant women who take alcohol occasionally. It is not yet known how much alcohol ingestion will cause birth defects. It depends on various factors which to extent determine how much alcohol ingestion will affect the result. These factors include age of the pregnant women, individual’s ability to process alcohol, frequency and timing of alcohol intake and whether or not the mother eats food while drinking.

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Evidence shows that if pregnant woman drinks not more than one drink a day then there’s potentially no risk of baby developing FAS. Studies have shown that moderate alcohol consumption during pregnancy does not have negative impact. However FAS is most likely to develop if expected mother consumes higher level of alcohol every occasion.

However it is widely accepted that chronic alcohol use during pregnancy is the cause of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. This is because alcohol passes easily through placenta barrier which fetus cannot process. If alcohol builds up during the course of time, higher concentration increases possibility of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in the baby.

If the woman consumes moderately high level of alcohol in the first trimester, there will be higher likelihood of baby developing problem because this is the time when brain develops. Since nervous system of the baby is developed during second and third trimesters, therefore even moderate consumption of alcohol can prove to be dangerous.

Prevention and treatment of FAS

There’s only one way of preventing baby from developing Fetal Alcohol Syndrome by not drinking alcohol at all during pregnancy. Every pregnant women or women planning to get pregnant should a big ‘No’ to alcohol consumption.

Any symptom seen in the child should be immediately reported to the doctor. There is no treatment available to cure FAS because damage to central nervous system causes permanent disability.  The problems cannot be cured but early diagnosis of the syndrome will lower down the risk of symptoms getting worse and prevent more symptoms to develop.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Pictures

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