Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is birth defect caused when a woman consumes alcohol during her pregnancy. FAS is considered to be one of the most preventable causes of mental retardation and other birth defects. It is a lifelong mental and physical birth defect. Child suffering from this condition can suffer from host of congenital birth defects such as mental retardation, low birth weight, delayed growth, problems related to vision, hearing, and communication etc.
Fetal alcohol syndrome can be mild or severe and the symptoms may not be apparent till many months after birth. It has nothing to do with genetics. Even small amount of alcohol can cause fetal alcohol syndrome. Therefore, a pregnant woman should abstain from drinking alcohol to prevent mental and physical damage of the fetus inside her womb.
How Do Babies Get Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?
When a woman drinks alcohol in her pregnancy, she can give birth to a baby suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome.We all know alcohol is quickly absorbed in blood after its consumption. When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, some amount of it is passed into the fetal blood through the placenta.
The fetus inside the womb is unable to process alcohol as it does not have fully developed liver and other organs. As a result alcohol gets concentrated in the fetus. It can interfere with folic acid, oxygen and other nutrients which are vital for fetal well being.
The damage can occur at any stage of pregnancy, but it is more common in first few weeks of pregnancy when even the mother does not know about her pregnancy. According to researchers, the effects of alcohol during the first trimester on the growing baby are extremely worse, especially if the mother drinks heavily.
Signs And Symptoms Of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Fetal alcohol syndrome consists of umbrella of symptoms affecting brain as well as physical body. The symptoms may be variable. Some children may suffer from mild symptoms which remain unnoticed for long period of time, some children may present with severe symptoms. These defects can affect the daily living of the child.
Most of the physical defects are apparent on the face. They include:
- Wide eyes
- Thin upper lips
- Chiseled nose
- Small head
- Smooth surface between the upper lip and nose.
- Growth retardation or slow growth.
- Joint, fingers and toe deformities.
- Difficulty in vision and hearing.
- Kidney and heart related defects.
Central nervous system defects:
- Poor judgment
- Poor memory
- Hyperactive behavior
- Lack of intelligence
- Frequent changing of mood.
- Lack of coordination and balancing.
- Inattentive and problems in processing.
- Child is not able to get along with others.
- Difficulty in performance in school.
- Unable to change task or adopting other task.
- Speech and language problem.
- Impulsive behavior.
Children suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome are known to be at risk of developing criminal behavior, incomplete education and psychiatric problems. These secondary problems may be acquired when the child starts growing.
Treatment For Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
There is no specific treatment that can cure fetal alcohol syndrome. Physical and mental defects stay lifetime. But if the symptoms are detected early they can be intervened and its effect can be reduced. Physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and counseling are beneficial in bringing change in the child’s life. When these therapies are started in early stage they enable the child to cope up with activities such as walking, speaking, talking etc.
There is no specific medicine that can help the child, but certain antianiolytic and antidepressant medicines can reduce secondary symptoms such as hyperactivity, and other behavioral problems. Alternative therapies such as massage, acupressure and acupuncture will help to ease flexibility of the body.