Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) was found, named and treated in the late 1960’s. The term “Fetal Alcohol Syndrome” is used to describe a lifelong set of physical, mental and neurobehavioral birth defects associated with alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
Most women are not aware of the many complications that can occur during pregnancy. Many pregnant women continue drinking right throughout their pregnancy, ignoring the fact that they could damage, and pose problems to themselves and well as there fetus. According to many physicians FAS is a leading cause of mental retardation and birth defects. In the United States, one in 500 children reported are diagnosed with FAS. On the Indian reservations the numbers are much higher, they are one in 99 children. Approximately one-half of the cases of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome go unrecognized. FAS affects more newborns every year than Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis, spina bifida, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome combined. This completely preventable birth defect is found in all ethnic groups and socioeconomic classes around the world, however it does occur 30 times more in Native Americans than it does in whites, and is six times more common in blacks.
Alcohol is a teratogen, a substance capable of producing fetal abnormalities. When a pregnant woman drinks, so does her baby; through the blood vessels in the placenta, the mother’s blood supplies the developing baby with nourishment and oxygen. In the fetus, the metabolism of alcohol is immature and very slow. While the mother is drinking, the levels continue to build and will remain high for long periods. Binge drinking is more harmful to the fetus because the high alcohol levels are reached rapidly and remain high. Periodic alcohol consumption keeps the blood alcohol levels low in the mother and gives the fetus time to metabolize some of the alcohol. Alcohol produces more significant neurobehavioral effects in the fetus than other drugs, including cocaine, heroin and marijuana.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome consists of characteristic patterns of abnormalities resulting from the exposure that the fetus has had with alcohol during early development. Children with FAS have a range of problems and are not easy to care for. They are born with a compilation of disorders that affect their life and the lives of people whom they come in contact with. Many of these children end up in foster care being shuttled back and forth between families, due to behavioral and physical problems, some of which are;
· Deficiency in growth
· Patterns of malformation affecting the face, heart and urinary tract
· Central nervous system dysfunction
· Mental retardation
· Neurological deficits (poor motor skills and hand-eye coordination)
· Complex pattern of behavioral and learning problems (difficulties with memory, attention and judgment)
Many factors play a role in the development of FAS in an infant. The most...