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Understanding the link between alcohol during pregnancy and FASD

Understanding the link between alcohol during pregnancy and FASD

December 27 | By CAAH Team

Pregnant women should be alert and careful when it comes to drinking. Consumption of alcohol during pregnancy can increase the risk of various complications in the fetus that can later cause physical, behavioral and intellectual disabilities in the child. Such conditions are known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). Roughly, half the pregnancy in the United States is unplanned and a greater number of women are not aware of their pregnancy until they are four to six weeks into their first trimester. Even sexually active women who do not use efficient contraception should be wary of the negative impacts associated with prenatal alcohol exposure.

A fetus receives all its nutrients and sustenance from its mother’s bloodstream through the umbilical cord. If an expectant mother drinks, there is a probability that the toxic substance (alcohol) will pass on to the developing fetus which can harm the baby. Its effect can range from mild to severe, depending on the duration and frequency of exposure.

Alcohol in the first three months of pregnancy can hamper the development of the baby’s organs like heart, eyes and kidneys. At the later stages, it can slow down the growth rate of the fetus. The brain of the unborn child continues to grow throughout pregnancy and any level of alcohol in the mother’s bloodstream can increase the chance of brain damage.

Types of FASDs among children

There are different kinds of FASDs that can afflict a fetus. They are:

Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS): It is the most common and noticeable effect of FASD. Individuals with FAS might have abnormal facial features, growth problems and central nervous system (CNS) problems. They also exhibit problems with learning, communication and attention and tend to have a hard time getting along in school.

Alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND): Individuals with ARND tend to have intellectual disabilities along with behavioral and learning trouble. They have difficulties with memory, attention, judgment and have poor impulse control.

Alcohol-related birth defects (ARBD): Individuals with this type of condition display problems in hearing or with their organs like the heart, kidneys or bones. Until 1996, ARND and ARBD were known as fetal alcohol effects (FAE), but the name was changed to the present form by the Institute of Medicine (IOM).

Symptoms of FASDs in children

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause numerous problems for both the mother and the child, sometimes even leading to miscarriage, stillbirth and a range of behavioral and intellectual disabilities in the child. Some characteristics and behaviors that can be observed among children with FASDs are:

  • small size of the head
  • low body weight
  • hyperactive behavior
  • poor memory
  • low IQ
  • vision or hearing problems
  • problems with organs such as kidney, heart or bones
  • short height
  • speech impediment and delay
  • difficulty understanding concepts of time, money and math
  • poor judgment and reasoning skills

Children with FASDs do not display all the symptoms and signs of the spectrum. Each case is different from the other, making it difficult to ascertain if a child is exhibiting symptoms of FASDs or some other condition.

Path to recovery from alcohol addiction

Similar to other substance abuse, alcohol abuse can rewire the brain, often causing problems like memory loss, cognitive impairment and violent mood swings. It is never too late to stop drinking during pregnancy because the brain of the fetus continues to develop throughout pregnancy. Therefore, the sooner the pregnant woman stops drinking, the lesser the risk of various complications for her and the child.

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcoholism, it is important to seek professional help. Contact the Colorado Alcohol Addiction Help to learn more about alcohol addiction treatment centers in Colorado. Call on our 24/7 helpline number 866-592-9261 or chat online to know about our holistic treatment approach and the best alcohol addiction treatment clinic in Colorado.

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