What is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
What is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a type of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) are the term for a range of disorders that cause mental and physical birth defects. FAS is the most severe type of FASDs.
Types of FASDs include:
- Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS)
- Partial fetal alcohol syndrome
- Alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder
- Alcohol-related birth defects
- Neurobehavioral disorder associated with prenatal alcohol exposure
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Symptoms
Fetal alcohol syndrome symptoms can include:
- Learning and intellectual disabilities
- Low IQ
- Heart problems
- Kidney defects and abnormalities
- Small head and brain size
- Deformed limbs and/or fingers
- Delayed development
- Mood swings
- Vision problems
- Sleep problems
- Problems with suckling and latching as an infant
- Poor social skills
- Difficulty in school
- Slow and delayed physical growth
Causes of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
The more alcohol that is consumed during pregnancy, the greater the risk of the baby developing FAS. Even a small amount of alcohol can put the fetus at risk, however.
The fetus’s heart, organs, brain, blood vessels, and central nervous system begin developing during the first trimester. Therefore the risk is higher if the pregnant woman drinks alcohol during the first trimester.
However, the baby develops at key milestones during each month of pregnancy, so the risk is present all the time, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Complications of FAS
Some problems behaviors not present at birth may manifest later on in the child’s life. These are known as secondary disabilities that are directly caused by FAS and may include:
- Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Mental health disorders like depression, eating disorders, and anxiety disorders
- Problems staying in school and with employment
- Inappropriate sexual behaviors
- Early death by suicide, homicide, or an accident caused by reckless behavior
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Diagnosis
Signs of FAS affects infants and developing children include:
- Heart murmur
- Slow growth rate
- Abnormal facial features
- Unusually small head
- Hearing and vision problems
- Poor coordination
- Central nervous system problems
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Treatment
There is no cure for FAS, but there are ways to treat behavioral, physical, and mental problems. Parents can also get training and therapy so that they are better equipped to raise and help their child. Although there are no medications used to treat FAS, certain medications can help with symptoms.
Medications can help with FAS symptoms:
- Antidepressants may be prescribed to help treat problems with mood swings, sleep problems, aggression, depression, and problems concentrating at school.
- Anti-anxiety medication may be administered to help calm aggression, anxiety, and neurosis.
- Stimulants may be prescribed to treat behavioral issues such as trouble concentrating, hyperactivity, restlessness, and poor impulse control.
- Neuroleptics are sometimes used to treat aggression and anxiety.
Certain types of behavioral therapy may help. Children may be taught social skills to enable them to interact with their peers. Further therapies may be needed to help the child improve cognitive skills and self-control, reasoning, and understanding cause and effect.
Often, children with FAS may need help with school. They may require extra lessons or tutoring.
Depending on the complications caused by FAS, further therapy and medication may be needed to treat the secondary disabilities.
Preventing Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
The following guidelines can further help to prevent FAS:
- Do not drink alcohol while trying to conceive: If a woman is trying to conceive, she should abstain from drinking even before a confirmed pregnancy.
- Consider not drinking during childbearing years, if not using contraception: Many pregnancies are unplanned, especially if no contraception is being used. Most damage from alcohol is caused during the earliest weeks of pregnancy, often before the woman even knows she is pregnant.
- An alcohol problem should be treated before pregnancy: If a woman is battling alcoholism, she should seek treatment before she considers conceiving.
Getting Help for Alcohol Abuse
If you are worried that you or a loved one has a drinking problem, get help today. At Addiction Rehab Treatment, we specialize in helping you find the right treatment center.
We know that addiction treatment is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Chat to one of our compassionate treatment navigators 24/7 and get the individualized help you need to get your life back on track.