Fetal alcohol syndrome is a condition in a child that occurs when he/she has been exposed to alcohol while still in the womb. When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, some of the alcohol easily passes to the fetus through the placenta. This can result to giving birth to a baby with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, of which fetal alcohol syndrome is a type.
What is the cause of fetal alcohol syndrome?
This condition occurs when alcohol in the mother’s blood passes to her baby through the placenta. A growing fetus cannot process alcohol like the mother does. Alcohol is more concentrated in the fetus and this can hinder oxygen and adequate nutrition from getting to the fetus’ vital organs.
This can lead to a damage of the fetus’ brain cells, spinal cord and other parts of the body. Alcohol can also disrupt the fetus’ development in the womb. In some cases, this might lead to loss of the pregnancy but for fetuses that survive, they may be born with problems with their vision, hearing, attention span, memory and ability to learn and communicate.
What are the symptoms of the condition?
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder covers a range of disorders and there are therefore many possible symptoms. These symptoms can also be mild or severe and they include:
- Heart problems
- Deformed limbs or fingers
- Problems with the liver, kidneys or other organs
- A head that is smaller than average
- Movement and coordination problems
- Learning difficulties. Problems with speech, thinking, memory and social skills
- Distinctive facial features such as a thin upper lip, small and wide-set eyes, and a smooth area between the nose and upper lip
- Below average height and weight
Can the condition be treated?
There is no cure for fetal alcohol syndrome neither is there a particular treatment for the condition. Damage done to the brain and other organs cannot be reversed but some of its symptoms can be treated. The earlier the condition is diagnosed, the better the treatment outcome.
Can it be prevented?
It is very possible to prevent the condition and this can be done by avoiding alcohol totally during pregnancy. Findings of some studies show that moderate alcohol consumption is safe but it is important to note that in pregnancy, no amount of alcohol is safe to consume.
If as a woman you drink while pregnant, you put your baby at a risk of fetal alcohol syndrome. If you are planning to get pregnant, it is very important that you do not drink.