Fetal Alchohol Syndrome Essay

This essay has a total of 2462 words and 9 pages.


Fetal Alchohol Syndrome





Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
By: Saje102
E-mail: saje102@angelfire.com

Many pregnant women are not aware of the complications that are involved with pregnancy.
The greater majority of young women see pregnancy as a way of bringing a life into the
world but do not use precaution in their dietary habits to prevent the destruction or
inhibition of such a life. Most pregnant women continue on their drinking and drug abuse
binge right throughout their pregnancy. They do not think ahead to the inexplicable damage
that it could do to their fetus. What they do not know is that when a woman drinks while
pregnant it could do damage, and pose problems not only to herself, but to the fetus that
she is carrying. The problem? FAS, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. According to many physicians it
is the leading cause of birth defects and developmental disabilities in the United States
today. Douglas A. Milligan states that, "FAS is the single greatest cause of mental
retardation in the U.S. today". ( Seachrist, p. 314) Fetal Alcohol Syndrome was first
named and treated and found in the late 1960's. This condition results from the toxic
effect of alcohol and its chemical factors on the developing fetus and its brain. The
alcohol enters the bloodstream though the placenta and then the damage begins to occur.
FAS consists of a characteristic pattern of abnormalities resulting from the exposure that
the fetus has had with alcohol during early development. There have been many reports
linking alcohol use and fetal deficiencies in growth that emerged from France in the late
1950's. Not until the 1960's was the correlation made between the number of defects and
the increasing amount of babies born with the syndrome. The term Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
was coined to describe the pattern of the abnormalities found in some children born to
alcoholic women. It clearly was very noticeable and distinctive in the recognition of
itself and was distinct from all other patterns of malformation in the fetus; there was a
significant association found between the alcohol consumption rates during pregnancy and a
lower general cognitive index of these children. Being further studied in the 1970's under
the heading as a birth defect that occurs, FAS was one of the most common causes of birth
defects. Researchers said that it occurred in almost 1 of every 500 to 1 in every thousand
births.( Seachrist, p. 314) There is a major thing that causes difficulty in the diagnosis
of this disorder though, its main diagnosis hinges on the obvious facial abnormalities,
short stature, and low IQ. Children who do not meet all of these factors are diagnosed
with FAE, Fetal Alcohol Effect, a milder form of FAS. There are general abnormalities
which affect both forms of the disease. These abnormalities include a deficiency in
growth, a pattern of malformation affecting the face, heart, and urinary tract. There are
abnormalities within the brain that lead to various intellectual and behavioral problems
in early childhood, as well as problems within the central nervous system. As I stated
before many factors do play a role in the development of FAS in an infant. The most
prominent among these are the frequency and the quantity of maternal alcohol consumption
during the pregnancy. The timing of the gestation of alcohol is what determines the level
of abnormalities that occur. The stage of development at which alcohol consumption takes
place and that in correlation to the gestation period, nutritional status, and genetic
background all play parts in the development of the baby and its defects. The alcohol that
is being consumed does have an effect on the cellular and molecular development of the
fetus and that is what generally underlies the development of FAS. There are specifics in
diagnosing that doctors look for in treating a patient for FAS. First of all the eyes are
the most common and consistent sign of FAS, the eyelids especially. Children often appear
to have widely spaced eyes but measurements reveal that they are spaced apart normally.
This disparity in sight is caused by short "fissures (eye openings)". The distance between
the inner and outer corners of each eye is palpebral shortened making the eyes appear
smaller and farther apart than normal. Following the downward pattern, the next common
facial defect in children of FAS/FAE is slow growth in the center of the face. This
produces an underdeveloped midface and the zone between the eye and the mouth may seem to
be flattened or depressed and in congruence the bridge of the nose is often very low. As a
result of slow nose growth, the nose tends to point forward and downward in that same
respect. ( Aase, p.5) Subtle but still a characteristic feature is the philtrum, the area
between the nose and the mouth. Characterized by a vertical midline groove, bordered by
two vertical ridges of the skin, where the grooves meet the red margin of the upper lip it
forms a "cupid's bow". In the development of the FAS child there is a long, smooth
philtrum without the ridges that should be there coupled with a smoothly arched upper lip
margin. Where as the facial abnormalities are very obvious when looked for the
abnormalities of the limbs and joints are less consistent. These include deformities of
the small joints of the hands as well as an incomplete rotation at the elbow. ( Aase, p.5)
Looking inwardly to the problems that may occur children with FAS are also for the most
part stricken with a increased risk for many common birth defects. Of these chronic
defects include congenial heart disease, anomalities of the urinary tract and genitals,
and spina bifida. These aforementioned abnormalities are not specific to FAS but coupled
with FAS characteristics they help to provide a more clear and concise diagnosis. There
were many reports of behavioral and intellectual trouble in all the children that have
thus been diagnosed. Beginning with infancy, the children have problems at feeding and are
highly irritable. They also exhibit unpredictable sleeping and eating patterns which make
it hard for the baby to be cared for and for maternal bonding to occur. During
development, both physical and mental, FAS children have very fine and poor motor
coordination skills and it becomes very apparent at the preschool age. They also are very
affectionate but at the same time very hyperactive, which makes it a problem for the
teachers who have them in class to deal with. This is why they are, during the first few
years of school, given the diagnosis of having attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder
(ADHD); this diagnosis is given because of their high activity level, short attention
span, and poor short-term memory. Many of these children require special education help
regardless of the fact that their IQ falls between the normal range. Their hyperactivity
calls for them to receive special attention that normal teachers cannot and at most time
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