I decided to do this article a little differently because I am covering a very serious and tragic childhood disorder called Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. It is a very sad and, unfortunately, a very real situation that causes our children to be born into this world with challenges and multitudes of obstacles that they must meet each day of their lives. And the sad truth is that all this could have been prevented by not drinking or taking in unhealthy substances while pregnant.
What Is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder?
So the first question we have to ask ourselves is, “What Is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder?” According to Healthy children (https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/chronic/Pages/Fetal-Alcohol-Spectrum-Disorders.aspx), “Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) is an umbrella term used to describe the range of effects that can occur in an individual whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. These effects can have lifelong implications including physical, mental, behavior, and or learning disabilities.” It is estimated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that there are 800 – 8,000 babies in the US alone that could be born each year with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
What Are the Symptoms of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder?
Children born with FASD can all exhibit various symptoms and characteristics of Fetal Alcohol Disorder and experience varying degrees of problems & challenges. In most cases there are physical defects, cognitive disabilities and coping and functional problems. According to the Mayo Clinic (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/fetal-alcohol-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20352901) the following is a list of symptoms in physical defects, brain and central nervous system problems, & social and behavioral issues that can be found in children born with FASD:
- Distinctive facial features, including small eyes, an exceptionally thin upper lip, a short, upturned nose, and a smooth skin surface between the nose and upper lip
- Deformities of joints, limbs and fingers
- Slow physical growth before and after birth
- Vision difficulties or hearing problems
- Small head circumference and brain size
- Heart defects and problems with kidneys and bones
Brain & Central Nervous System Problems:
- Poor coordination or balance
- Intellectual disability, learning disorders and delayed development
- Poor memory
- Trouble with attention and with processing information
- Difficulty with reasoning and problem-solving
- Difficulty identifying consequences of choices
- Poor judgment skills
- Jitteriness or hyperactivity
- Rapidly changing moods
Social & Behavioral Issues:
- Difficulty in school
- Trouble getting along with others
- Poor social skills
- Trouble adapting to change or switching from one task to another
- Problems with behavior and impulse control
- Poor concept of time
- Problems staying on task
- Difficulty planning or working toward a goal
What Causes Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder?
The plain and simple fact is that Drinking Alcoholwhile pregnant can cause FASD. It doesn’t matter the type of alcohol, such as beer, wine, hard liquor or coolers, they can all affect your pregnancy. According to Kids Health (http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca/En/HealthAZ/ConditionsandDiseases/BrainandNervousSystemDisorders/Pages/Fetal-Alcohol-Spectrum-Disorder-FASD.aspx) the alcohol you drink can cross over the placental barrier from the mother to the baby:
- High risk begins when a woman has 2 drinks a day, or 14 drinks on average per week, or 4 or more drinks on any one occasion.
- Recent evidence suggests that even 1 drink per day may cause behavioral problems.
Also according to Kids Health the types of problems the baby may have depends on when the mother drinks while pregnant:
- Since the brain is developing during the entire pregnancy, the brain is always being affected if the mother drinks regularly.
- Drinking during the first trimester increases the chance that the baby will have a small brain, physical problems, and/or severe intellectual disability.
- Drinking during the second trimester increases the chances of spontaneous abortion (miscarriage).
- Drinking during the third trimester, and during nursing, can affect intelligence.
How Is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Diagnosed?
The earlier the baby is diagnosed the better the outcome so if you suspect FASD, please consult the baby’s doctor. Also, if you drank while pregnant he/she should be informed. According to Health Line (https://www.healthline.com/health/fetal-alcohol-syndrome#symptoms3) a physical exam of the baby may show heart related problems such as a murmur. Gradually as the baby grows, there may be other signs that help to confirm the diagnosis:
- Slow rate of growth
- Abnormal facial features or bone growth
- Hearing and vision problems
- Slow language acquisition
- Small head size
- Poor coordination
So in order to diagnoses a child with FASD, the doctor needs to determine that the child has abnormal facial features, slower than normal growth and central nervous system problems.
Is There Treatment For Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder?
There is no cure for FASD and it is a lifelong disorder. According to Kids Health if it is diagnosed early, the child can benefit from Speech-Language, Occupational & Physical Therapy & Early Intervention Education Services to facilitate the child in reaching his/her fullest potential. Parents & caregivers may benefit from adult classes that teach techniques on handling behavior problems and other issues. Counseling with a mental health professional can also benefit the family.
Kids Health also stated that doctors may prescribe medications to assist with FAS problems including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression, anxiety, sleep problems and aggressive behaviors. There are also “alternative treatments for FASD like biofeedback, yoga, supplements and creative art therapy.” They recommend that you always should check with the child’s doctor before starting any alternative treatments.
What Are the Complications of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder?
According to the Mayo Clinic complications of FASD may include:
- Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Aggression, inappropriate social conduct, and breaking rules and laws
- Alcohol or drug misuse
- Mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety or eating disorders
- Problems staying in or completing school
- Problems with independent living and with employment
- Inappropriate sexual behaviors
- Early death by accident, homicide or suicide
Prevention of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder?
There is only one way to prevent Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and that is Don’t Drink, especially when you are pregnant. If you have a drinking problem, talk to your doctor before trying to start a family. Even seeking advice from other health professionals can help you to stop drinking and/or make you realize the potential dangers of pregnancy and alcohol use.
Key Facts On Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
According to Fasworld (http://www.fasworld.com/fasd-facts/) the following is a list of Key Facts on FASD:
- Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is caused by maternal drinking alcohol in pregnancy.
- No amount of alcohol and no time in pregnancy have been established as safe for the fetus.
- Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders are the biggest single cause of mental disabilities in most industrialized countries, and could be totally prevented if all women abstained from alcohol during pregnancy.
- Less obvious and seemingly milder fetal alcohol damage is sometimes called Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE). This term has fallen out of use and has been largely replaced by Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND), Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (pFAS) or Static Encephalopathy. These conditions can be equally damaging to babies but are rarely diagnosed. (To keep this simple, we’re going to call it all FASD.)
- Some experts estimate that about 1% of North Americans suffer from a fetal alcohol disorder – about four times as many people as those with AIDS/HIV. There are three to five times as many people with ARND as FAS. New research suggests that the prevalence of FASD in our society is closer to 2-5%. There is no other disability this big!
- Since 1973, the medical profession has known that alcohol in pregnancy impedes fetal brain development, affecting intelligence, learning skills and behavior.
- Persons with FAS have distinctive physical appearance and lower IQs, but have lower crime and addiction rates than those with ARND as they get earlier diagnosis and can be better protected by society and their parents.
- Individuals with ARND may look normal and have seemingly normal intelligence, but their damaged brains can result in learning disabilities, impulsivity, lying, stealing, tantrums, violence and aggression, inability to predict consequences or learn from experience, lack of conscience, and being highly addictive.
- Most people with ARND look perfectly normal and are never diagnosed. Research indicates that a high percentage of homeless people, and at least 25% of juvenile and adult offenders suffer from undiagnosed FASD.
A Poignant Poem To Reflect Upon
The following poem is by Stephen Neafcy who is diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol effects:
On my way to being born into this world.
My Mommy decided to drink alcohol,
And my brain was a sponge
And it soaked it up,
Now I'm not thinking very well.
And alcohol is the cause of my hell.
I can't at times think for myself
And I go right into a shell.
I can't retain what I read because
Alcohol took away my brain cells!
Because of that booze,
And sometimes people can't tell,
Because I look kinda well.
The alcohol effect is there
Though people are unaware.
I'm misunderstood all of my life!
I must work harder then anyone else!
Still the out-come does not come-out very well.
My poor Mom and Dad,
They are beside themselves.
This Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Effects
Is a condition from hell.
But even with this I at times
Have something to say,
So I ask you not to back away!
I don't mean to do wrong,
Because of the booze
My brain echo's YOU LOSE
And I turn into the alcohol's Pawn.
Even though this is the best it will get,
And I will never be able to say "No Sweat"!
I have a talent somewhere
That needs to be shared,
And it's so important
For all to be aware!
I will search if it takes all my life
For this talents light
So I can shine bright for You all!
from a someone who's been through it all,
if You're pregnant or going to be,
Please think about me,
And don't take a drop of alcohol
And its never going to be,
But I have a heart that beats.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Effects
Means I have dig very very deep,
And Jesus helps me keep my Life complete!
While trying to conceive
And during your pregnancy!
Thanks and have a healthy baby!
I hope you learned something from this article about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. There are many resources on the internet if you need more specific information. I will continue this series with another childhood disease post. I hope you will continue to join me in this quest to learn about these illnesses that children usually encounter when they are young. Thank-you for reading my article on ”Childhood Diseases – A Sad & Unfortunately a Real Tragedy: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder”. If you would like to follow me, please check HERE
These are my previous articles if you are interested in reading them:
Teachers & Parents Beware of Impetigo: I Gave It To My Teacher
Childhood Diseases –On a Mission to Learn: Chicken Pox
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Strep Throat
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Fifth Disease
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Measles
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Mumps
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Croup
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Pertussis (Whooping Cough)
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Asthma
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Tetanus
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Ear Infections
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Reye’s Syndrome
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Kawasaki Disease
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Hand, Foot, & Mouth Disease
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Ringworm
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Lyme Disease
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Rotavirus Infection
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Hepatitis A
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Scarlet Fever
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Respiratory Syncytial Virus
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Meningitis
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Infectious Mononucleosis
Childhood Diseases – On a Mission to Educate: Oral Thrush