How can drinking during pregnancy be fatal to my child?

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A new study says that foetal alcohol spectrum disease will also lead to psychological problems in your child. Here's why you should stop this indulgence right NOW!

Last month we posted a study that explained how drinking during pregnancy could expose your child to 428 diseases. These diseases are listed under Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disease (FASD), which are conditions that occur in a person whose mother consumed alcohol during pregnancy.

The study published in The Lancet journal, identified 428 co-occurring disease conditions that affected nearly every system of the body including the central nervous system (brain), hearing, vision, blood circulation, heart, digestion and respiratory systems, among others.

What the new study says

Now in a new study published in the journal Pediatrics, reiterates the previous study and has found that children with FASD are also affected with psychological disorders including anxiety, depression, aggression and even diminished learning capacity.

The researchers made the following observation about three kinds of behaviours in children affected by FASD:

  • Internalising behaviours like anxiety, depression and withdrawal
  • Externalising behaviours like delinquency and aggression
  • Other problems including problems with social skills, attention and thought process

Researchers also stated that FASD is being increasingly recognised by health professionals as a cause of difficult behavior in children. It has also highlighted the effects of regular and social drinking (of mothers) on children.

Let’s understand this problem and ways to recognise and deal with it.

Definition: Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disease

Women who consume alcohol during pregnancy can given birth to children with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Diseases (FASD). It is an umbrella term for a series of disorders that are both physical and psychological. So far four types of FASD have been recognised. These are:

  • Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)
  • Partial FAS
  • Alcohol-related birth defects
  • Alcohol-related psychological defects
  • Neurobehaviour disorder associated with prenatal alcohol exposure

While defects in all these categories differ in level from one person to the other, their overall affect is usually fatal. However, FAS is the most severe and causes serious damage to a person’s hearing, vision, lack of attention and ability to learn and communicate.

Causes: Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disease

When an expecting mother consumes alcohol, some of it passes on from the placenta to the foetus. The baby’s body processes this alcohol differently from the way our body breaks it down. In fact, alcohol gets concentrated in the foetus, baring it from receiving essential nutrients.

foetal alcohol spectrum disease

Drinking during the first trimester is even more damaging because the baby’s organs haven’t been formed yet and needs all those nutrients

Remember that drinking during the first trimester is even more damaging because that’s the time your baby actually needs all the nutrients. However, studies suggest that drinking during any stage of pregnancy can greatly affect your baby’s health in the future.

Symptoms: Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disease

Since foetal alcohol spectrum disease covers a wide range of disorders, there are many symptoms you might be able to spot.

  • The baby may have a small head
  • The baby may have wide-set eyes, a small ridge between his nose and upper lips, thin upper lip and abnormal facial features
  • The child may have below average weight and height
  • The child may be hyperactive
  • The child may lack focus, have a small attention span and poor coordination skills
  • The child may have delayed development in social skills, speech and thinking
  • The child may have poor learning abilities
  • The child may have physical problems including heart conditions, liver problems, kidney defects, and deformed limbs

This syndrome is for obvious reasons fatal to the child. But remember that the earlier it is diagnosed, the better treatment your child can get.

Treatment: Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disease

While foetal alcohol spectrum disease does not necessarily have a particular treatment, however, individual disorders can be treated by specialists. Special education or caring for their special needs could also help. For instance, speech therapists could help toddlers or special-care providers could help older children deal with everyday routines.

At home, your best chance to help your child is to create a loving and caring atmosphere. Children with FAS are likely to develop problems related to substance abuse and violence during the later part of the lives, especially if they were exposed to it during their early years.

As for medication, anti-depressants, neuroleptics and even anti-anxiety drugs can be recommended by doctors if need be.

But the best solution to deal with the entire problem is stop consuming alcohol and smoking, especially before planning to conceive.

(Image courtesy: Express)

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