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Fetal Alcohol Syndrom
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Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS)

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WOMEN'S HEALTH

Pregnancy

MENTAL HEALTH

Addictions & Substance Use

If you drink alcohol while you're pregnant, your fetus has a drink as well. This puts your baby at risk of a serious condition called fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), which is a group of birth defects. These defects are irreversible and can include physical, mental and behavioral problems.

Although doctors aren't sure how much alcohol you'd have to drink to place your baby at risk, the more you drink, the greater the chance of problems developing. For that reason the best advice is: If you're pregnant, don't drink alcohol.

Signs and symptoms

Fetal alcohol syndrome isn't a single birth defect. It's a cluster or pattern of related problems. The severity of symptoms varies, with some children experiencing them to a far greater degree than others. Moreover, the facial features seen with fetal alcohol syndrome may also occur in normal, healthy children. Facial features of fetal alcohol syndrome are especially difficult to identify in preschool-age children. Distinguishing normal facial features from signs of fetal alcohol syndrome in children of varying ethnic backgrounds requires the expertise of a doctor. Signs of fetal alcohol syndrome may include:

  • Small head circumference and brain size (microcephaly)

  • Distinctive facial features, including small eyelid openings, a sunken nasal bridge, an exceptionally thin upper lip, a short, upturned nose and a smooth skin surface between the nose and upper lip

  • Small teeth with faulty enamel

  • Heart defects

  • Deformities of joints, limbs and fingers

  • Slow physical growth before and after birth

  • Vision difficulties including nearsightedness (myopia)

  • Mental retardation and delayed development

  • Abnormal behavior such as short attention span, hyperactivity, poor impulse control, extreme nervousness and anxiety

Doctors may use other terms to describe some of the signs of fetal alcohol syndrome. Alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND) refers to the mental and behavioral impairments that occur as a result of fetal exposure to alcohol. Alcohol-related birth defects (ARBDs) refer to the physical defects that occur from fetal alcohol exposure.

Causes

When you drink alcohol, it enters your bloodstream and reaches your developing fetus by crossing the placenta. Because a fetus metabolizes alcohol more slowly than an adult does, your developing baby's blood alcohol concentrations are higher than those in your body. The presence of alcohol can impair optimal nutrition for your baby's developing tissues and organs and can damage brain cells.

The more you drink while pregnant, the greater the risk to your unborn baby. The risk is present at any time during pregnancy. However, impairment of facial features, heart and other organs, bones and central nervous system may occur as a result of drinking alcohol in the first trimester, when these parts of the body are in key stages of development. In the early weeks of the first trimester, many women may not be aware that they're pregnant. Alcohol may affect the brain of the fetus at any time during pregnancy.

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This information is provided for general medical education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient's medical condition.
In no event will The DrEddyClinic.com be liable for any decision made or action taken in reliance upon the information provided through this web site.

 

 



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Last Modified : 03/15/08 12:38 AM