Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Alcohol is the leading preventable cause of mental and physical birth defects.
When a woman drinks alcohol during her pregnancy, she risks giving birth to a child who could have lifelong
mental and physical deficiencies.
These physical and mental deficiencies are referred to as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) or Fetal Alcohol Effects
In 1996, the Institute of Medicine released this statement: Of all the substances of abuse (including cocaine,
heroin, and marijuana), alcohol produces by far the most serious neurobehavioral effects in the fetus.
There are an estimated 40,000 cases of FAE each year.
Signs and symptoms of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome:
Low birth weight
Small head circumference
Children with Fetal Alcohol Effects display the same symptoms as with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome except to a lesser
degree. FAS is typically misdiagnosed and is mistaken for disobedience, stubbornness, and lack of attention. Fetal
Alcohol Syndrome can be misdiagnosed as different types of Attention Deficit Disorders.
Problems with misdiagnosed Fetal Alcohol Syndrome tend to escalate as the child gets older and moves into
adulthood. As the child gets older, he or she tends to get into trouble with the law, be unable to live
independently, and have mental health problems.
There is a new category of prenatal damage that is called alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND).
ARND refers to children who exhibit only behavioral and emotional problems that come from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
There are no signs of developmental delay or physical growth deficiencies. In these children, the behavior can be
belligerence or stubbornness.
They typically will score very well on intelligence tests but their behavior problems keep them from being able
Parents and teacher both need extensive education to learn how to deal with these children. Many moms-to-be
worry about how much alcohol is too much and what it takes to prevent Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
The only true prevention is abstinence from alcohol because there is no evidence that shows how much alcohol
will cause prenatal damage. Individual women process alcohol differently.
Did You Know
Alcoholism is a progressive and potentially fatal disease. Alcoholism itself is not
curable but it is possible to recover completely.
Recovering from alcohol is to abstain from all forms of alcoholic beverages and
medications that contain alcohol such as cough medicines.
Alcoholism is considered a chronic illness. As with any chronic illness, it affects
entire families. As a result, the recovery process also affects the entire family and network of
friends of the alcoholic.
The good news is that these people can serve as a good support network to enable
the alcoholic to abstain from drinking alcohol.
The same way a family would support a chronically ill person is how the alcoholic
should be treated because alcoholism is chronic.
Anyone who is an alcoholic will be an alcoholic for the rest of his or her
Even though there is no cure for alcoholism, there is hope for the
alcoholic. That is where recovery comes in the abstinence from all alcohol on the part of
the addicted person.
This is where the control part of the disease comes into play. It is important
to be able to control the desire to have alcohol and to choose not to drink it.
Unfortunately, the sheer nature of being an alcoholic is defined by the lack of an
ability to control ones drinking.
In order to enter the recovery phase and thus control the disease itself, the
alcoholic must come to the place where he or she is able and willing to take control and stop
reaching for alcohol.
Research has shown that the alcoholic cannot willfully control his
drinking and therefore should be abstinent. The alcoholic has to accept responsibility for
his addiction and recovery.
Typically, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is caused from chronic alcohol use or binge drinking during pregnancy but
there have been developmental deficiencies with only occasional alcohol use.
When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, a higher concentration travels through the placenta to the baby and it
tends to stay longer in the babys system than it does within the womans body.
Women process alcohol differently than men and a little goes a lot further. It takes less alcohol to do more
In order to help the loved one work through their alcohol addiction, the family members must
accept that they did not cause the alcoholism, they cannot cure the alcoholism, and they cannot
control the alcoholism.
Doctors will usually tell women that abstinence during the first trimester is imperative but in later
pregnancy, it is not as important.
However, some of the most complex developmental stages in brain growth occur in the second and third
During the second and third trimesters, the nervous system can be adversely affected by alcohol as well.
Because of the unknown nature of exactly how much alcohol can be safely drunk during pregnancy it is
recommended that women abstain until after the baby is born.