Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, or FAS, is often overlooked when people discuss the consequences of drinking. Alcohol addiction has devastating consequences for individuals. However, alcohol abuse can also have dramatic and tragic consequences for the most vulnerable elements of society: babies. One of the most severe results of using and abusing alcohol while pregnant is fetal alcohol syndrome or FAS.
Most people learn about FAS in health class. However, this education is usually cursory at best. It mostly consists of tragic fetal alcohol syndrome pictures and squeezed into a general message about why alcoholism is bad. As a result, many people don’t have a good idea of what FAS is, how it is caused, the impact it can have on both children and results, or the treatment options available. This post will provide this important information so women can make informed decisions about their choices.
What is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is the most severe of the fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, also called FASDs. It results in several debilitating symptoms. These reduce the quality of life for those who experience it. People are impacted both as children and as adults. Understanding the causes of FAS, as well as the symptoms and treatments, is an important first step to developing a greater understanding of the condition.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Causes
FAS is always caused by drinking alcohol during pregnancy. As many as 1 in 20 children in the United States are born with FAS, making it a widespread issue. Alcohol passes from the mother to the developing baby when consumed during pregnancy. It then interferes with the baby’s natural and normal growth and development. FAS symptoms are the result.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Symptoms
FAS produces several symptoms in children and in adults. The harm done to a baby’s development can last throughout their entire life. While there are some treatment options for people with from FAS, prevention is the best way to ensure that your child doesn’t suffer. That’s one of the reasons why it’s so important to spot signs of alcoholism early on, as women who become addicted to alcohol have a much greater risk of a baby with FAS.
FAS in Babies
While FAS produces a host of problems, the most obvious effects of FAS in babies are physical development issues. Babies with FAS can develop distinctive facial features. These include a very thin upper lip, small eyes, or an upturned nose. Also, FAS can cause slow physical growth both before and after birth. FAS also results in deformed limbs, joints, and fingers.
Furthermore, babies with FAS are more likely to have heart, kidney, and bone defects. They can develop vision and hearing problems and issues with head and brain development. As a result, these babies face a difficult path through life.
FAS in Children
Physical Disabilities and Children with FAS
Children with FAS continue to experience physical issues as they get older. Disfigured joints and appendages prevent them from playing. They may grow slower and have problems putting on weight. Children born with deformities will have them for the rest of their lives.
The physical challenges a child with FAS faces can create serious problems. These children often experience liver and kidney problems. Motor skills also suffer. As a result, FAS children often fail to meet the benchmarks for their age. They have a hard time playing sports. They can feel excluded and left out of their peer groups.
The physical and mental challenges created by the condition interfere with speech. Physical deformities make it challenging to produce certain sounds. Therefore, these children may have a difficult time explaining what is wrong in the first place.
Learning and Social Disabilities and Children with FAS
Fetal alcohol syndrome studies show that, frequently, children born with FAS require special educational assistance. They experience a higher rate of learning disorders. They also have a difficult time meeting the benchmarks for children their age. Some children develop attention disorders, such as hyperactivity and memory deficits. Others experience problems with speech, vocabulary, reading, and writing.
Additionally, children may have a difficult time developing social skills and learning to interact with their peers. This is because children with special educational needs are frequently segregated from the general student population. Problems developing social skills are made worse by other symptoms of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Studies have shown that children with FAS are more likely to have behavior problems. These include things like being aggressive or irritable. They also have more difficulty understanding other’s emotions and actions.
Moreover, children with FAS deal with difficulties as a result of their physical issues. Children can be incredibly cruel. The thin lips, small eyes, and different proportions that FAS children have makes them a target for bullies. Furthermore, children are incredibly aware how well they fit in. As a result, feeling and being different from other children their age can cause children to have low self-esteem. This lack of confidence exacerbates other social and learning disorders. The result is a complex web of problems that entraps and entangles children during their growing years.
FAS in Adults
Adults with FAS also face a wide array of challenges. These challenges stem both from the condition itself and from secondary disabilities associated with FAS. Secondary disabilities include problems with the law, problems with money, and mental health disorders. As a result, living with FAS as an adult can be an incredibly frustrating experience, both for the person suffering from symptoms and their families and loved ones.
Adults with FAS are more likely to lack a job, have housing insecurity, and have problems living independently. These adults are prone to engaging in risky and destructive behavior. Fetal alcohol syndrome symptoms in adults create a greater risk for exploitation and abuse. Adults with FASD have more problems socializing with their peers. This contributes to volatile relationships and problems holding a job.
FAS adults in relationships have high levels of stress and frustration. FAS symptoms in adults make it challenging to have a normal relationship. Spouses often play the role of caregivers. This can add stress to the relationship.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Prevention
When you consider the facts about FAS, it’s not surprising why we should be alarmed that heavy drinking is on the rise. After all, the best solution to the problem is prevention.
Despite what some people may say, there is no safe amount of alcohol to consume during pregnancy. Avoiding alcohol while you are pregnant is the only guaranteed way to prevent fetal alcohol syndrome. Parents and mothers should make sure to educate themselves about the risks of drinking while pregnant. They should then adjust their lifestyle and behavior accordingly.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Treatment
Alcoholics aren’t the only ones who have to deal with a lifetime of issues from alcohol abuse. There is no cure for fetal alcohol syndrome. People suffering from the disorder will have to deal with it their entire lives. However, there are some options to help children and adults manage their symptoms. It is important to keep in mind that these treatment options only help secondary disabilities. The primary cause will remain untreatable.
FAS Treatment for Children
There are not any effective treatments for the physical symptoms of FAS. Medication and therapy can help manage the secondary symptoms. However, birth defects and physical difficulties will likely last a lifetime.
The treatment options for behavior, learning, and social problems focuses on counseling. Special education teachers, speech therapists, and other services help children deal with the obstacles they face. However, these treatment strategies have had mixed results. Moreover, treatment can make children a target for bullying. This is especially true if the child leaves class.
Some children benefit from unconventional education programs. They pursue vocational training instead of a standard high school degree. If the child is able to hold a job, then these training options can create a path to a sustainable future.
FAS Treatment for Adults
Treatment for adults with fetal alcohol syndrome resembles treatment for children. Medications may be able to reduce the pain caused by physical abnormalities. However, the physical changes are permanent. Therefore, these adults face a lifetime of pain and discomfort.
Adults benefit from counseling and other therapies. These adults suffer from many of the same things as those who engage in heavy drinking themselves. Many adults develop substance abuse problems or other addictions. Treatment programs can help manage these symptoms.
Adults suffering from FAS can find support for their emotional needs. It isn’t easy to grow up as a child with FAS. Those that make it to adulthood often experience other mental health issues. Therefore, many of these adults find themselves in jail or hospitalized against their will. Therapy and counseling may be the only option available to these people.
Debunking Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Myths
One Sip Won’t Hurt
People often say that one sip of alcohol won’t hurt. However, there is no amount of alcohol that is safe for a developing baby.
Wine and Beer Don’t Count
Sometimes people argue that what matters is the form the alcohol comes in. However, that’s not the case. Every alcoholic beverage, by definition, contains alcohol. Therefore, any alcoholic beverage risks FAS. After all, the disorder is called fetal alcohol syndrome, not fetal liquor syndrome
It’s OK to Drink When You’re Almost Due
Some people think that it’s safe to have a drink when the baby is almost due. However, it doesn’t matter when the baby is due, drinking creates a risk of FAS. A baby continues to develop the entire time it is in the womb. Introducing alcohol at any point during that development can have tragic consequences.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: A Preventable Tragedy
There’s only one solution to fetal alcohol syndrome. That solution is to prevent it from happening in the first place. FAS ruins lives before they even start. Prevent this tragedy by staying away from alcohol if you are pregnant or may become pregnant, and save yourself and your baby a lifetime of difficulty.