Understanding Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism NIAAA

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A single episode of binge drinking, especially during the first few weeks of pregnancy, can lead to FAS. Having four or more drinks within two hours is considered a single binge-drinking episode for females. The Division of Newborn Medicine specializes in treating babies with a wide range of congenital and acquired conditions. If you suspect your child may already have an FASD, a doctor can also help you find the support you need for your child’s development and your own well-being.

fetal alcohol syndrome

The symptoms of FASDs may resemble other medical conditions or problems. It is best to speak with a doctor who specializes in FAS, such as a developmental pediatrician, clinical geneticist, or child psychologist. However, early intervention and support often help improve child development.

What You Need to Know About Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs)

The result of alcohol on a developing fetus can lead to craniofacial differences, growth impairment, neurodevelopmental disabilities, and behavioral issues. Research shows that alcohol exposure at specific times during pregnancy can affect the brain in various ways, resulting in a spectrum of brain disorders. Prenatal alcohol exposure and central nervous system (CNS) involvement are factors common to the disorders encompassing FASD. Evidence of CNS involvement can be structural (e.g., small brain size, alterations in specific brain regions) or functional (e.g., cognitive and behavioral deficits, motor and coordination problems). Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are caused by a baby’s exposure to alcohol during pregnancy. The resulting conditions may cause physical, developmental, or a mix of both physical and developmental disabilities ranging in severity from mild to severe.

Fetal alcohol syndrome includes a characteristic group of physical defects, including small head and brain and facial abnormalities, as well as defects in other organs. Alcohol exposure during pregnancy can result in FASD by interfering with development of the baby’s brain and other critical organs and physiological functions. This can lead to deficits after birth and beyond.2,3 Alcohol can disrupt development at any stage, even before a woman knows that she is pregnant. If you’ve already consumed alcohol during pregnancy, it’s never too late to stop. Brain growth in the fetus takes place throughout pregnancy, so stopping alcohol consumption as soon as possible is always best.

What should I do if I think my child may have an FASD?

Not only that, but women may not know they’re pregnant in the first 4 to 6 weeks. To prevent FASDs, a woman should avoid alcohol https://ecosoberhouse.com/article/sober-life/ if she is pregnant or might be pregnant. This is because a woman could get pregnant and not know for up to 4 to 6 weeks.

fetal alcohol syndrome

If the child is more than 3 years of age, parents or caregivers can talk to a pediatrician and contact any nearby elementary school to ask for an evaluation. If the staff members are not familiar with the evaluation process, the next step is to ask to speak with the district’s special education director. Generally, the more alcohol a person consumes during pregnancy, the higher the chance of FAS.

What are the risk factors for FASD?s

If characteristic features of FAS are seen during antenatal care, other common causes (e.g., infection, genetic factors, placental insufficiency, and other teratogens) should be differentially diagnosed first. If fetal growth restriction or microcephaly appears, the patterns and degrees of growth restriction should be documented [12]. It is necessary to suspect and evaluate maternal alcohol consumption in cases of fetal growth restriction with microcephaly. During the maternal fetal alcohol syndrome interview, we should investigate not only maternal alcohol intake but also medical history, nutrition, husband’s alcohol use, and home environment. Low educational level and unplanned pregnancy are significant risk factors for alcohol consumption in pregnant women [9]. It is also important to consider the overall drinking pattern just before pregnancy recognition, as it is common for the drinking pattern before 3 months of pregnancy to continue into the 1st trimester [12].

You may be familiar with a condition called fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). This syndrome is part of a broader group of conditions called fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs), which can be caused by alcohol use during pregnancy. Using alcohol during pregnancy is the leading cause of preventable birth defects, developmental disabilities and learning disabilities. However, the only way to prevent FAS is to avoid drinking beverages containing alcohol during pregnancy. Impairment of facial features, the heart and other organs, including the bones, and the central nervous system may occur as a result of drinking alcohol during the first trimester. That’s when these parts of the fetus are in key stages of development.

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