Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or FAS is a congenital disorder that affects the fetus. The condition occurs due to fetal exposure to alcohol during any phase of pregnancy. There is a range of difficulties experienced by the affected child. These difficulties may range from mental issues, ocular problems to physical malformation and abnormal behavior. The problems resulted due to the condition may differ in different cases and unfortunately these anomalies cannot be reversed. There is no safe alcohol degree which can be permitted for consumption during pregnancy in order to avoid FAS. If a pregnant woman consumes even slightest quantity of alcohol she makes her fetus prone to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Immediately, consult your doctor if you suspect your child is suffering for this condition as addressing the condition early can help in decreasing complications significantly.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Diagnosis
As of now, it is almost impossible to diagnose the condition before the child’s birth. There are ways to determine general health of fetus and the mother during pregnancy which may possibly indicate associated anomalies but not precisely. Your doctor may assume and evaluated chances of FAS if he is informed about the amount as well as time of drinking before and during pregnancy. After delivering the child if you inform your doctor that you consumed alcohol during pregnancy then he may track your child’s health during initial few months for any identification of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Your doctor may track your child’s growth, face-features, heart health, hearing skills, language skills, behavior pattern, cognitive skills, vision and motor skill etc.
If you doctor suspect any anomaly then he may recommend genetic- specialist for your child in order to confirm the prevalence of FAS. If it is confirmed that your child is suffering from FAS, then his siblings will also be diagnosed to check whether they are also suffering from the syndrome.
Causes of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
The primary cause of Fetal Alcohol Symptom is said to be consumption of alcohol during pregnancy. When a pregnant lady consumes any amount of alcohol it can easily cross the placenta and reach fetus. Fetus metabolizes substances slower than the mother, including alcohol. Hence, when a pregnant lady consumes alcohol the concentration of alcohol present in blood of fetus is higher than that of mother. This may impeded and cut-short the supply of crucial nutrients and oxygen to its essential tissues and body organs such as brain.
The higher is the amount of alcohol consumption the higher are the chances of your child being affected with FAS; but even a slightest amount of alcohol can cause this syndrome. There is no safe amount or safe phase during pregnancy wherein alcohol consumption can be allowed. The risk of this disorder is present throughout the pregnancy. Development of heart, nervous system, facial features and other crucial organs thrives during the first trimester. Hence, these features may be especially affected if the expecting mother consumes alcohol during the first trimester. This may happen unintentionally during the first week of first trimester because women are usually unaware that they are pregnant. Giving up alcohol even before you plan to become pregnant is the best practice to avoid FAS.
Symptoms of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is a spectrum of anomalies and not just one problem. ‘FAS’ is accompanied with a range of extremely severe anomalies of prenatal exposure to alcohol. These conditions are collectively referred to as FASDs or Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. The condition is extremely debilitating but it is preventable. It serves to be a common cause of mental retardation in numerous children around the world. Nevertheless, the degree of deprivation of mental abilities may vary from mild to severe. Factors that would indicate prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome includes:
- Physical deformities such as fingers, joints arms, etc
- Slow physical and mental development before and after birth
- Hearing difficulties
- Ocular impairment
- Microcephaly a condition wherein head’s circumference is smaller as well as the brain size
- Heart defects
- Inappropriate coordination
- Mental retardation
- Difficulty learning things
- Affected concentration, hyperactivity, nervousness, anxiousness and poor control on impulse
- Smaller and disproportionate eyes
- Anomalously thinner upper lips
- Short and exceptionally retroussé nose
- Smoother philtrum or skin surface between upper lips and nose.
It may not be easy to distinguish between features of a normal and FAS affected child. It may need expertise in many cases especially during the initial days of child’s birth. Technically Alcohol-related Neurodevelopmental Disorder is what we commonly call mental as well as behavioral impairment caused due to alcohol exposure of fetus. Similar alcohol related physical defects are technically called Alcohol-related Birth Defects.
Treatment and prevention of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Unfortunately there is no treatment that could reverse the condition. There are therapies that may help in improving abilities of the affected child and enhances his lifestyle making his daily living activities easier than otherwise. For structural issues associated with heart, doctors may suggest surgical treatments.
Sexually active females should avoid drinking as they may unintentionally become pregnant under influence of alcohol. Unaware of their pregnancy if they continue drinking, then the unborn child may become affected. Such females should try to avoid pregnancy by using safety measures or at least use birth control pills if they suspect that they may become pregnant. The best practice is to prevent the condition from affecting the fetus is by avoiding alcohol completely. A woman should stop consuming alcohol even if she is planning to get pregnant. This is the only highly effective way to avoid Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.