On any given day in the United States… 10,657 babies are born. (US Census Bureau). Twenty of these babies are born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Twenty may seem as though it is not a lot, but when you compare it to the fact that this number is more than HIV positive, Muscular Dystrophy, Spina Bifida and Down Syndrome combine it creates a whole new parameter. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is a direct result of a woman’s competed disregard for the fetus.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS, hereinafter), is a series of both mental and physical birth defects that can include, but are not limited to, mental retardation, deficiencies in growth, central nervous system dysfunction, behavioral maladjustments, and craniofacial abnormalities.
It is common knowledge not to smoke or drink during pregnancy.
Growth abnormalities can be significant and also includes all three of the following respects of growth: weight, length and head circumference. Most of the time the baby’s growth abnormalities are so severe they need to be hospitalized because of obvious failure to survive.
A baby with craniofacial abnormalities can be recognized by their eyes in that they are small with exaggerated inner epicanthic folds. (Health Visitor Nov. 1981) The bridge of the nose is normally poorly developed. The ears are often large and simple in form. (Midwives Chronicle and Nursing notes)
At first, when the baby is delivered, the affected infant shows signs of alcohol withdrawal; with signs that are much similar to delirium tremens in adults. They are often anxious, have a weak grasp, poor hand-to-eye coordination and consistent difficulty in feeding and sucking.
People can not blame the mother’s for the most part though. It is a common ignorance among the health care providers. Most health care providers are untrained and unfamiliar with substance abuse issues among pregnant women. FAS is widely misdiagnosed and or under diagnosed. Only ten percent of medical schools require students to complete a course on the proper diagnosis of individuals with alcohol and other drug addictions.
Many women do not receive proper pre-natal care, and a study performed by a National Center for Health Statistics found that doctors appear less likely to tell a pregnant black woman to quit drinking and or smoking than they would be to a white woman. (The New York Times, January 19, 1994)
As mentioned above, a baby with FAS can suffer from many different birth abnormalities. These disabilities will indeed last a lifetime. There is no amount of alcohol found to be safe to consume during pregnancy. FAS is, however, 100% preventable when a woman abstains from alcohol.
FAS is the leading known cause of mental retardation. Approximately, one out of 750 live birth are born each year with FAS. (The Journal of American Medical Association, 1991) Thirty to 40% of the mothers who drink ?heavily? throughout pregnancy have the syndrome. FAS is not limited to any one group, race, culture, or socio-economic background. Between one-third and two-thirds of children in special education have been affected by alcohol in some way. (The Journal of American Medical Association, 1991) Comparison of children and adults with FAS shows that with the approach to adolescence, the specific craniofacial features are not as noticeable as they are in infancy. Average academic functioning of these children and adults does not seem to develop beyond early school grade level. The short stature and small head (micro cephalic), seem to be permanent. The most noticeable behavioral problems were found to be with comprehension, judgment, and attention skills, causing these adults born with FAS to experience major psychological and adjustment problems for the rest of their lives.
Numerous studies with animals, of experimental alcoholism, where nutritional status has been well controlled, have shown that the damage to the developing fetus, such as low birth rate CNS ( Central Nervous System) impairment, etc. are caused by the direct consequence of the effects of alcohol. In addition, some of these studies have shown a clear continuum effect; the higher the blood alcohol of the mother, the greater the damage to the developing fetus.
Even though the direct connection between alcohol intake and birth defects is now indisputable, there are other etiological factors associated with maternal drinking that must also be considered as contributing factors in an