Monday, October 4, 2010

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

While many of my post are for fun or just to express what is on my mind, this particular post is serious. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is the leading cause of mental retardation in the U.S.

It is a preventable and an unnecessary disability that is placed on a child due to a mother’s lack of responsibility during pregnancy. When a mother drinks during pregnancy she places the developing fetus at risk for a lifelong disability. FAS occur when consumed alcohol crosses the placenta and enters the fetus’ bloodstream. The blood alcohol level of the fetus reaches the same level as the mother. Regardless of how much alcohol is consumed, drinking while pregnant is harmful. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is avoidable if a pregnant woman presumes that her unborn baby is the most important factor in her health and does not drink.

What is the estimated number of FAS births per 1,000 pregnancies?
It is estimated that 1-3 of every 1,000 babies born in the world will be born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (Nadakavukaren, 2006). According to the CDC (2009), “studies have shown that 0.2 to 1.5 cases of fetal alcohol syndrome occur for every 1,000 live births in certain areas of the United States”. The effects of the crippling illness are so severe that it can be categorized as maternal child abuse. Generally about 3% of all live births in the U.S. will result in a birth defect, which is one in every 33 birth (CDC, 2009).

What are the three diagnostic features of FAS?

It is very important to detect FAS early in a child’s life. By diagnosing the illness early, health professionals can begin to outline resources for the child and their families in an effort to reduce the long-term adverse effects and assist the child in leading a healthier lifestyle. There are three distinct facial features that help diagnose a child with FAS. An infant born with FAS will have a smooth ridge between the nose and upper lip, a thin upper lip and an abnormally short spacing between the inner and outer comers of the eyes (CDC, 2009).

The child will experience growth defects that are at or below the 10th percentile, having lower than normal weight, and height. The child will experience problems with the central nervous system, resulting in difficulty speaking, moving or learning (CDC, 2009).

Are the effects of FAS reversible during adulthood?
While the illness is 100% preventable, the effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome are not reversible during adulthood. The effects of FAS tend to intensify as the child enters adulthood. Since drinking during pregnancy exposes the developing brain to alcohol most FAS diagnosed people experience mental retardation and low I.Q. People that suffer from FAS often have trouble keeping jobs, obeying the law, understanding dangers, maintaining friendships, and sometimes lead them to homelessness (Nadakavaukaren, 2006).

What makes FAS different from many other types of birth defects?

The main difference with FAS and other types of birth defects is that alcohol consumption is the direct contributor to how a fetus is born with FAS. Other birth defects can be because a child’s brain did not develop properly, but with which was not a result of the pregnant mother’s prenatal actions. However, if a mother does not drink during pregnancy, her child will not be born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

What is a safe level of alcohol for women of child-bearing age to consume, particularly if these women are planning a pregnancy?

There is no safe level of alcohol consumption for a woman of child-bearing age if the woman is planning to become pregnant. There is no safe type of alcohol to drink or appropriate time during pregnancy to consume alcohol (Navadakavukaren, 2006). Therefore if a woman is planning to become pregnant or not using effective birth control she should not drink. Many important organs are developing during the first few weeks of conception; a woman could be pregnant and not know. Consequently, drinking at this critical developmental stage, even if the mother is unaware can still result in a child being born with FAS.


Department of Health and Human Services Center for Disease Control and Prevention (August, 2009 Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs), Retrieved September 13, 2009 from

Department of Health and Human Services Center for Disease Control and Prevention (March, 2009), Retrieved September 13, 2009 from

Nadakavukaren, Anne. Our Global Environment: A Health Perspective .Long Grove: Waveland Press, INC., 2006.

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