Foetal alcohol syndrome

Anytime a pregnant mother drinks, she can damage her growing baby. Heavy drinking in the first trimester is considered especially hazardous. Babies with foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS ) generally have a low IQ, considerable health issues, noticeable physical characteristics, and an increased chance of infant mortality.

What causes foetal alcohol syndrome?

Foetal alcohol syndrome is the direct result of prenatal alcohol exposure. When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol while pregnant, the alcohol enters her bloodstream where it can then reach the developing baby. The more a pregnant woman drinks, the greater the risk to the child.

Is foetal alcohol syndrome serious?

Foetal alcohol syndrome is extremely serious and can cause mental retardation, heart defects, and even death in children born with the condition. The effects of FAS on the infant will last a lifetime.

Can I prevent foetal alcohol syndrome?

The only way to prevent foetal alcohol syndrome is to abstain from drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

How do I know if my child has foetal alcohol syndrome?

Most children with FAS are diagnosed at birth. Symptoms include:

How do I treat foetal alcohol syndrome?

Treating FAS may involve a lifelong plan of academic intervention and psychological care. A child with foetal alcohol syndrome will likely experience the following problems as they grow:

  • Low birth weight
  • Smaller than normal head circumference (microcephaly)
  • Small eyes
  • Flattened face and flat bridge of the nose
  • Underdeveloped vertical ridges that run from the nose to the upper lip (philtrum)
  • Thinner than normal upper lip
  • Small lower jaw (micrognathia)
  • Heart defects
  • Tightening of muscle, tendons, ligaments or skin restricting movement of elbows or knees (joint contractures)

Should I call the doctor?

Your doctor will likely be the first to diagnose FAS in your child. He can also help you develop a treatment plan to ensure that your child has the best possible outcome.

What you need to know about foetal alcohol syndrome

  • IQ of around 70-100
  • Developmental delays
  • Behaviour problems
  • Learning difficulties
  • Memory problems
  • Increased risk of mental health issues and alcohol and drug misuse
  • Foetal alcohol syndrome is caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol.
  • FAS can cause lifelong developmental and health problems for your child.
  • Some babies born with FAS don’t survive.
  • Don’t drink alcohol at all while you are pregnant to avoid foetal alcohol syndrome.

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Written by Rebecca Stigall for Kidspot, New Zealand’s parenting resource for family health.

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