Fetal alcohol syndrome is when a baby has had prolonged exposure to alcohol during the mother’s pregnancy. Fetal alcohol syndrome results in the child developing potentially severe brain damage and growth challenges. The amount of alcohol a mother is drinking while pregnant will determine the severity of the child’s challenges when growing up. Defects caused by fetal alcohol syndrome are unfortunately not reversible.
Medical professionals can never say how much alcohol a pregnant woman can consume due to various factors. Therefore it would always be advised that women do not consume any form of alcohol while pregnant. If you are drinking while pregnant, you are risking your baby’s health as well as your own.
Alcohol use, generally speaking, beer, wine, or hard liquor during a women’s pregnancy, is the leading cause of preventable congenital disabilities and intellectual disabilities in the United States. Alcohol very quickly passes through the placenta, which is the organ that nourishes the baby during the pregnancy journey. This is why no amount of alcohol is safe to drink during pregnancy. The tiniest drop can harm a developing fetus and increase the likelihood of a miscarriage.
The bottom line and the only way to prevent the possibility of your baby developing fetal alcohol syndrome is not to drink or eat anything that has alcohol in it.
How will fetal alcohol syndrome affect children?
Babys who are unfortunately born with fetal alcohol syndrome tend to have varied facial features, for example:
- The eyes may appear smaller
- The upper lip may develop thinging
- The philtrum (the indent between your nose and upper lip) may develop to appear smooth
Fetal alcohol syndrome is known to cause other defects such as:
- Congenital disabilities: Heart, kidney, and bone problems, along with vision problems and limited hearing
- Seizures and neurologic problems: Learning disabilities, poor or lack of balance and coordination
- Poor growth: Newborns will often have a lower weight and smaller heads. They will continually not grow as fast or gain as much weight as other babies and children in their category
Delayed development: Children diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome will often miss milestones when other children of the same age reach them
Behavioral challenges: Babies may often be slightly fussier and have more challenges when sleeping. Teenagers may often have:
- Learning problems
- Trouble getting along with friends
- Difficulty relating to friends or loved ones
- Lack of or poor fine motor skills
- Behavioral issues such as:
- Lack or poor attention
- Lack of concentration
How will fetal alcohol syndrome be treated
Unfortunately, there is no cure for fetal alcohol syndrome. However, many things can help babies and children reach their milestones and unlock their full potential, especially if the problem is recognized early on in the baby’s life.
Kids can significantly benefit from:
- Classes teach young children how to be social with others their age, teachers, and loved ones.
- Counseling with a mental health professional
- Speech-language therapy
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Early intervention services
- Special education in school
Medical professionals may prescribe medicines to help with mental health challenges such as:
- ADHD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
- Aggressive behavior
Parents and caregivers can also benefit from training themselves to learn how to best care for a baby or child who sufferers from fetal alcohol syndrome and any behavioral problems that may appear as the child develops and grows.
Alcohol-related neurodevelopment disorder (ARND)
When a mother drinks during pregnancy, not only is there a significant risk of the baby developing FAS but there is also a risk of the baby developing alcohol-related neurodevelopment disorder. Children diagnosed with this disorder will often have intellectual disabilities, with further challenges to their behavior and learning. Often these children will struggle in school, particularly with maths. They will find it hard to concentrate remember what the teachers taught them, often they will be impulsive, which will land them in trouble, and they cannot judge situations and act appropriately.
All of this combined can make a child with ARND feel like an outsider to their peers. They will possibly struggle to make friends who have pure intentions. As a child grows into their teens, their mental health will begin to take its toll more often than not.
How can parents help?
Children with fetal alcohol syndrome are amiable, happy, and enjoy social interaction more often than not. However, caring for a child with this syndrome can be challenging. Unfortunately, these children will have lifelong physical, behavioral, and learning problems; this is on top of what children go through as they grow up. Therefore, they will need a little extra support to do okay mentally.
Besides early interventions services and support, providing a stable, caring, safe, and loving home environment can reduce the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome. If you are a parent or caregiver for a child who suffers from FAS, don’t ever be afraid to seek help if you’re struggling. You need to take care of yourself mentally and physically to ensure you give that child the best life. Support groups can be highly beneficial if you notice you are struggling. The parent or caregiver needs immediate help if they work with an alcohol or substance addiction.
Get help if you are struggling with alcohol addiction
If an individual has been working with alcohol consumption, we would always advise them to seek immediate help. It is even more crucial if you are a mother who is suffering from alcohol addiction. Your baby’s physical health is too at risk.
You will need to seek immediate professional help to determine the severity of your alcohol dependency and then develop a treatment plan. Alcohol use disorder (AUD) can be a complex condition to overcome. Also known as alcoholism, this condition does not simply mean a person drinks too much or too often; people with AUD have a neurological dependence on alcohol and an uncontrollable compulsion to drink. Approximately 14.4 million American adults suffered from AUD in 2018 alone. If someone you love is exhibiting symptoms of alcoholism, it is essential to help them seek treatment and support them on the path to recovery.