Fetal Alcohol Syndrome & Substance Abuse: An Informative Guide

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There are many disorders that may put pregnant women and fetuses at risk. A frequent developmental abnormality experienced is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, or FAS. According to the CDC, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is estimated to be present in between 0.5 and 2 per 1,000 births within the United States. Continue reading to learn more about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, including what it is, what the symptoms are, and how its diagnosed.

What is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?

During pregnancy, a person who drinks alcohol may cause a life-long condition in a developing fetus known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). Persons with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) are at the most severe end of what are known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). This life-long condition cannot be treated. Even miniscule amounts of alcohol consumed during pregnancy may damage your developing fetus. 

Fetal alcohol syndrome damages brain development, resulting in varying degrees of mental deficiency. Although fetal alcohol syndrome birth defects may be corrected, they are not reversible. This disorder can affect individuals from every demographic, even people in the public eye.

fetal alcohol syndrome

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome vs. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders 

There are many ways in which fetal alcohol exposure can have a negative impact on a baby’s development. It can result in either mild or severe symptoms. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is the term used to describe the wide array of signs and symptoms ranging from mild to severe. On the spectrum, fetal alcohol syndrome is the most severe condition. Other FASD conditions include: 

  • Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (pFAS) – Individuals with partial FAS exhibit some of the characteristic features of FAS (e.g., changed facial features), but do not display all of the associated symptoms. 
  • Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND) – Inattention, impulsiveness, and difficulty with judgment are some of the problems experienced by people with this disorder. 
  • Alcohol-Related Birth Defects – Physical birth defects (abnormal changes to parts of the body) that affect the heart, eyes, skeletal system, ears, and kidneys can occur. 
  • Neurobehavioral Disorder due to Prenatal Alcohol Exposure ( ND-PAE) – A person suffering from this condition was exposed to a large amount of alcohol while in the womb. They cannot perform daily tasks normally and might exhibit severe tantrums in social situations. They also have difficulty with thinking and memory. 

What Causes Fetal Alcohol Syndrome? 

A person consuming any alcohol during pregnancy, including wine, beer, hard ciders, and “hard liquor”, can cause fetal alcohol syndrome. FAS does not occur without alcohol consumption. Because the umbilical cord passes the baby’s blood through which alcohol is passed, it is dangerous during pregnancy. The baby does not metabolize alcohol in the same way as an adult does, which prolongs the effects of alcohol. It may also interfere with the healthy development of the fetus, particularly the brain and central nervous system. It does this in the following ways: 

  • Alcohol can harm cells in various parts of the fetus, leading to improper physical development.
  • Nerve cells are impaired by alcohol, delaying their development and disrupting their function. 
  • The placenta receives insufficient oxygen and nutrients due to slowed blood flow caused by excess alcohol consumption during pregnancy. 
  • When the body breaks down alcohol, toxic byproducts are produced. These can then accumulate in the baby’s brain cells and cause damage. 

Although the beginning of fetal development is the most critical for the entire body, the brain continues to develop throughout pregnancy. Because it is impossible to pinpoint the development of all organs during pregnancy, consuming alcohol prior to childbirth is risky.

Many people are unaware that they are pregnant for the first few weeks of pregnancy (four to six weeks). This is because your body takes a long time to build up enough hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) to detect on a pregnancy test during those early weeks of pregnancy. Because the fetus is going through a massive surge of development during those early weeks of pregnancy, alcohol use during this time could adversely impact the fetus. 

fetal alcohol syndrome

Is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Common? 

To provide an exact estimate of the number of individuals with the fetal alcohol spectrum condition (FASD) would be impossible. Due to the variety of symptoms and the wide range of severity, it is sometimes difficult to identify someone with FASD. Healthcare providers might also find it difficult to speak with individuals who consumed alcohol while pregnant. This means that some people with light symptoms of FASD may never be identified. 

However, according to the Centers for Disease Control, about 1 in 1,000 live births in the United States is the risk of FASD. From a spectrum of disorders (FASD), researchers may find that up to 5 out of every 100 children in the United States and Western Europe has at least one of them. In 2019, CDC researchers found that one in nine pregnant women consumed alcohol during a 30-day period. 

What are the Symptoms of FAS? 

There are many variations in the manifestations of fetal alcohol syndrome. Some individuals will experience only a few of the symptoms, while others will experience all of them. FAS presents mental and physical challenges. The body of a person with FAS changes over time in a noticeable way, as well as developing slower than expected. There can also be mental and social issues throughout their lifetime that may affect their social life, education, and employment. 

Symptoms in Infants 

Infants with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome may experience the following: 

  • Low birth weight
  • Short height
  • Abnormal facial features such as small eyes or a thin upper lip. 
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Visual and auditory difficulties
  • Small head 

Symptoms in Early Childhood into Adulthood 

  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Short attention span
  • Delayed speech development 
  • Learning disabilities
  • Low IQ
  • Poor reasoning ability
  • Poor short-term memory 
  • Poor coordination

Does Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Last Into Adulthood? 

There is currently no treatment for fetal alcohol syndrome. The symptoms of this disorder persist throughout a person’s lifetime and may be managed by a healthcare professional, but they will not disappear. 

FAS symptoms remain throughout life and often result in secondary issues that are not part of the original condition. People with FAS will experience a number of secondary issues as time goes on. These issues are not part of FAS itself, but rather result from having FAS. Secondary effects of FAS that might occur in adulthood include:

  • Having trouble with authority
  • Acting out in sexually inappropriate ways 
  • Having trouble living independently 
  • Regularly unemployed or unable to keep a job
  • Experiencing various mental health disorders 

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in Adults 

Adults with FASDs have a high incidence of psychiatric and behavioral disorders, drug and alcohol problems, and criminality. They are also less likely to graduate, have stable employment, and live independently, in addition to these problems. Signs and symptoms of FAS in adults include: 

  • Small head 
  • Problems with decision-making
  • Short in height
  • Aggression 
  • Obsessive-compulsive tendencies
  • Thin upper lip 
  • P{oor memory recall 
  • Reduced size of brain 

Adults with FAS may find it difficult to cope with the consequences of the condition, especially during adulthood when they are expected to look after themselves. They may require assistance with things like housing, employment, managing finances, and transportation. 

fetal alcohol syndrome

How is FAS Diagnosed? 

FAS is a complex condition that is difficult to identify. There is no specific test for FAS, and pregnant people might not recall all of their alcohol consumption during pregnancy. A child’s size, specific signs and symptoms and the child’s developmental history can all help a pediatrician diagnose FAS. These signs may include: 

  • Abnormal facial features
  • Low birth weight
  • Behavioral and emotional issues 
  • History of heavy alcohol consumption by the child’s mother

There is no medical test for FASDs, so diagnosing them is difficult. Furthermore, other disorders, such as ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) and Williams syndrome, have some of the same symptoms as FASD. 

Treatment for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Although fetal alcohol syndrome is incurable, early treatment of some of the symptoms can help your child develop more effectively and decrease the severity of the damage. Treatment may include: 

  • Undergoing behavioral therapy for emotional and learning difficulties
  • Medications to treat behavioral and attention issues
  • Parental coaching and support to learn how to best help your child

Parental guidance is intended to assist parents in assisting their families to cope with behavioral, educational, and social issues. Families may adjust to a wide range of circumstances by using different routines and principles. If a stable and caring home has helped children with FAS stay emotionally healthy as they age, they may avoid developing mental and behavioral difficulties. It is also helpful if the following are done: 

  • Provide a stable, loving home to promote mental health
  • Utilize social services and special education 
  • Absence of violence within the home
  • Diagnosing before the age of 6 
fetal alcohol syndrome

Oasis Recovery Can Help 

The key to avoiding FAS is to avoid drinking alcohol during pregnancy. If you don’t drink alcohol, this condition can be prevented. It is also critical to avoid drinking alcohol if you think you’re pregnant or are already pregnant. Immediately take a pregnancy test if you suspect you’re pregnant. If you’ve consumed alcohol after conception, tell your doctor and stop immediately. 

Oasis Recovery Center is prepared to assist you or someone you care about who is battling alcohol dependence or suffering from an associated mental health issue. We can provide you with information about our many services, treatment programs, and that can assist you to change for the greater good. Please contact us today to find out more about how we can help!


source : https://www.or-nc.com/addiction-blog/

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