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Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, can you still have the occasional alcohol drink or two? The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends abstaining from drinking alcohol during all stages of pregnancy due to the risk of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

The Statistics on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)

Forty thousand babies born annually in U.S. with FASD, or two out of every 1000 live births. According to the CDC, this is a higher statistic than those diagnosed each year with an autism spectrum disorder.

The lifetime cost of raising a child with FASD is about $2 million. The overall cost to the U.S. healthcare system is over $6 billion a year.

Is a Little Alcohol Okay?

Moderate to heavy alcohol consumption during pregnancy can cause FASDs, according to many countries throughout the world. U.S. healthcare providers caution that any amount of alcohol is dangerous during pregnancy.

Some children are diagnosed with FASD when they do not attain the usual developmental milestones as an infant or toddler. Most children affected by FASD are diagnosed by 6 years old.

FASDs include a group of conditions. General physical and behavioral issues include problems with:

  • Learning
  • Remembering
  • Understanding directions
  • Following directions
  • Communicating
  • Socializing
  • Physical problems
  • Activities of daily living like eating and personal hygiene

Many people with FASD exhibit a combination of symptoms, both physical and behavioral. In many instances, they function at about half of their biological age. There are many people with FASD who have average or above-average intelligence.

FASD Types

The most extreme type of FASD is fetal alcohol syndrome.

This syndrome has some specific features:

  • Abnormal facial features, which include wide-set eyes, narrow eyes
  • A flat philtrum (the groove located between the nose and upper lip)
  • Growth problems
  • Central nervous system anomalies
  • Learning, memory, communication and attention span problems
  • Trouble with vision and hearing
  • Schoolwork is challenging
  • Difficulty in social situations

Other types of FASD include:

Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND)

This condition manifests with:

  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Behavior problems
  • Learning difficulty
  • Poor judgment
  • Poor impulse control
  • Difficulty with math
  • Trouble with memory and attention span

Alcohol-Related Birth Defects (ARBD)

The organs or systems most often affected by such birth defects include:

  • Heart
  • Kidneys
  • Bones
  • Hearing problems

A person with ARBD can suffer from one or several of these physical problems.

The Treatment Plan for FASD

FASD is a life-long condition. There is no cure for fetal alcohol spectrum disorder but there are treatments available. Treatment options include:

  • Medication to relieve some symptoms
  • Behavior therapy
  • Create a hands-on learning environment, rather than a primarily verbal classroom
  • Educate those around the affected person to be aware of their idiosyncrasies. For example, when someone who is over-sensitive to touch, an effort should be made not to bump into them

The most important treatment of FASD is prevention. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is a completely preventable by abstaining completely from alcohol.

More Than One Opinion

Some people still argue that drinking in moderation while pregnant is okay. In fact, a Danish study suggests that pregnant women who drank small quantities of white wine had children who tended to be healthier and happier perhaps because these women had healthier lifestyles overall. The study’s authors still do not endorse drinking as only small amounts of alcohol were measured.

U.S. health organizations consistently continue to recommend abstinence from drinking alcohol from conception through delivery as a way to prevent FASDs.




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