The health of a pregnant woman’s baby can be significantly affected by the expecting mother’s lifestyle. Consuming alcohol during pregnancy can be extremely detrimental to the health of the fetus and the future growth and development of the child. According to the March of Dimes website, there is no “safe time” to drink alcohol during pregnancy, and there is no safe amount of alcohol. If you are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant, not consuming alcohol is the safest and best choice you can make for yourself and your baby. When alcohol is consumed at any time during pregnancy, it can seriously affect the health and development of the unborn children. Alcohol in a mother’s blood can enter the child through the placenta, and the baby will have the same blood alcohol level as the mother.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)
Fetal alcohol syndrome, or FAS, is a developmental problem that is caused when a baby is exposed before birth to alcohol. Some of these children are adversely affected even by a relatively small amount of alcohol if the mother consumes alcohol during the time the baby’s brain is developing, which is between the second and eighth weeks of the pregnancy. But a majority of babies with FAS are born to mothers who consume alcohol throughout the pregnancy. Babies with FAS also have a lower than average birth weight and may have unusual facial features such as small eye opening, smaller faces and jaws and thin upper lips. Some babies could have defects, joint and limb malformations and even developmental delay.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)
Alcohol can have a significant impact on physical growth and brain development throughout the entire pregnancy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, or FASDs, are a group of conditions that can occur in a person whose mother drank alcohol during the pregnancy. March of Dimes states that 40,000 babies are born annually with FASDS. These birth defects that can range from mild to severe. A person with FASD may display a variety of symptoms including:
- Abnormal facial features
- Poor coordination
- Vision or hearing problems
- Defects or problems relating to the heart, kidneys or bones
- Learning disabilities
- Hyperactive behavior
- Issues with memory
- Cognitive and behavioral problems
Children whose mothers consume alcohol during pregnancy may suffer from alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND), which refers to disabilities involving behavior and learning. Those with ARNDs usually have difficulties with memory, attention, reasoning, judgment and impulse control. Children exposed to alcohol during pregnancy may be born with alcohol-related birth defects (ARBD). This includes problems with the heart, kidneys, bones or with hearing. Children could also be born with a mix of these defects.
The best way to avoid these problems is to stay away from alcohol during pregnancy and adopt a healthy lifestyle. If your child has been diagnosed with FAS or FASD, please get your child the help he or she needs. There are also several support groups for families coping with similar issues. Getting the help and support you need is an important step toward a better tomorrow for you, your child and your family.