Information on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

During pregnancy, the woman is greatly at risk and vulnerable to toxins and other harmful substances. Alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs are substances known as teratogens. Teratogens are substances that cause negative effects towards the fetus inside the mother’s womb. These substances would in turn result to a sick or worse, abnormal baby.

Alcohol is one teratogen that could greatly affect the woman’s pregnancy. People may not know of its danger and still allow a woman to drink alcoholic drinks during her pregnancy, but the result of this would be carried by the baby for the rest of his or her life. Alcohol is one of the known causes of mental and physical birth defects specifically in the United States. Though, this is only a possibility, the rate is high.

For one, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is a disorder that can occur to the embryo when a pregnant woman ingests alcohol during pregnancy. Alcohol crosses the placental barrier and can inhibit fetal growth, create distinctive facial stigmata, damage neurons and brain structures, and cause other physical, mental, or behavioral problems. The main effect of FAS is lasting central nervous system damage, especially to the brain. Developing brain cells and structures are underdeveloped by prenatal alcohol exposure, often creating a collection of primary cognitive and functional disabilities including poor memory, attention deficits, impulsive behavior, and poor cause-effect reasoning, as well as secondary disabilities for example, mental health problems, and drug addiction.

There are different indications that can appear when one is diagnosed to have fetal alcohol syndrome. These indications include low birth mass, small head circumference, developmental interruption, organ dysfunction, facial abnormalities, including smaller eye openings, flattened cheekbones, and indistinct philtrum (an underdeveloped groove between the nose and the upper lip), epilepsy, poor coordination, poor socialization skills, such as difficulty building and maintaining friendships and relating to groups, lack of curiosity, learning difficulties, including poor memory, inability to understand concepts such as time and money, poor language comprehension, poor problem-solving skills, behavioral problems including hyperactivity, inability to concentrate, social withdrawal, stubbornness, impulsiveness, and anxiety.

The primary characteristic of fetal alcohol syndrome is the damage it brings in the central nervous system. Central nervous system damage can be evaluated in three areas such as structural, neurological, and functional deficiencies. Structural impairments may include microcephaly (small head size) of two or more standard deviations below the average, or other abnormalities in brain structure. During the first trimester of pregnancy, alcohol impedes with the migration and organization of brain cells, which can make structural deformities within the brain. During the third trimester, harm can be caused to the hippocampus, which plays a role in memory, learning, emotion, and encoding visual and auditory information, all of which can create neurological and functional CNS impairments as well.

When structural impairments are not observable, neurological impairments are assessed. Neurological problems are expressed as either hard signs, such as epilepsy or other seizure disorders, or soft signs. Soft signs are broader, nonspecific neurological impairments, such as impaired fine motor skills, neurosensory hearing loss, poor gait, clumsiness, poor eye-hand coordination.

When structural or neurological impairments are not observed, all four diagnostic systems allow CNS damage due to prenatal alcohol exposure to be assessed in terms of functional impairments. Functional impairments are abnormalities due to prenatal alcohol exposure (rather than hereditary causes or postnatal insults) in observable and measurable domains related to daily functioning, often referred to as developmental disabilities.

The production of birth deficiencies is not a measure on the amount of alcohol being ingested. Individual women process alcohol differently. Other factors vary the results, too, such as the age of the mother, the timing and regularity of the alcohol ingestion, and whether the mother has eaten any food while drinking.

Alcohol easily passes the placental barrier and the fetus is not at all equipped to get rid of alcohol than its mother, so the fetus tends to obtain a high concentration of alcohol, which remains longer than it would in the mother’s system. That explains why the child is the one greatly affected when in fact it is the mother who consumes the alcohol. This such a sad truth.

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