Fetal Alcohol Syndrome






Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is an increasing problem in our world today. At least 5,000 infants are born each year with FAS, or about one out of every 750 live births, which is an alarming number. In the United States there has been a significant increase in the rate of infants born with FAS form 1 per 10,000 births in 1979 to 6.7 per 10,000 in 1993 (Chang, Wilikins-Haug, Berman, Goetz 1). In a report, Substance Abuse and the American Woman, sent out by the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, at least one of every five pregnant women uses alcohol and/or other drugs during pregnancy (http:/www.nofas.org/stats.htm). Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) refers to a group of physical and mental birth defects that are the direct consequence of a woman’s consumption of alcohol during her pregnancy. It is a series of both mental and physical birth defects ranging from mental retardation, growth deficiencies, central nervous system dysfunction, craniofacial abnormalities and behavioral maladjustments. FAS is the leading known cause of mental retardation, above both Spina Bifida and Down’s Syndrome according to the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1991 (http://www.nofas.org/stats.htm). There is a lack of knowledge and medical training concerning Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which increases the occurrence and treatment of this terrible disease.
There are many terrible effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. In the Institute of Medicine’s article, The Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: Diagnosis, Epidemiology, Prevention and Treatment, they report that alcohol produces the most serious neurobehavioral effects in the fetus compared to other drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and marijuana (http://www.nofas.org/stats.htm). There is a wide range of effects and disorders that are a result of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome causes physical, mental and emotional effects, which are irreversible. As stated before FAS is the leading cause of mental retardation. There may be mild to severe growth retardation including decreased birthweight and head circumference in addition to continued growth retardation for height, weight and head circumference. Children with FAS fail to ever catch up in growth during the preschool years and have a tendency to remain thin even though there is adequate nutrition. These children often have anomalies and deformed facial features such as short palpebral fissures, flat midface, thin upper lip, indistinct philtrum, epicanthal folds, low nasal bridge, minor ear anomalies, micrognathia, strabismus, ptosis of the upper eyelid, narrow receding forehead, and a short upturned nose (Hess and Kenner 2). In broader terms the face of a FAS child includes a small head; a small maxilla which is the upper jaw; short, upturned nose; smooth philtrum which is a groove in the upper lip; smooth and thin upper lip; and small slightly narrow eyes with noticeable epicanthal folds (http://www.adam.com/ency/article/0009111.sym.htm). In the American Journal of Public Health and article called Tobacco and alcohol use during pregnancy and risk of oral clefts, described a study conducted to examine the relationship between alcohol consumption during the first trimester of pregnancy and oral clefts (Lorente, Cordier, Goujard and Ayme 1). First of all during the 6th through the 13th weeks of pregnancy, the roof and upper front of the mouth are developed by fusion of soft tissue and bony processes. Interruption or of this development may result in a group of disorders referred to as clefts. Proper eating and speech production relies on the normal development of the lip and hard and soft palates. Cleft lip and palates cause trouble with chewing, drinking, and swallowing behaviors and may require special attention. In the study the researchers found an increased risk of cleft palate associated with alcohol consumption during the first trimester (Lorente, Cordier, Goujard and Ayme 1).
Mental Retardation is also a severe and common effects of Fetal Alcohol syndrome including central nervous system (CNS) neurodevelopmental abnormalities and behavioral or cognitive disabilities. CNS abnormalities in FAS children may be defined as hyperactivity, fine and gross motor development delays, or incoordination, impaired language development, impulsivity, problems with memory, poor judgement, poor problem solving, learning problems, distractibility, seizures, and structural abnormalities of the brain or indications of the deficient brain growth. Many children with FAS do not have the ability to understand cause and effect relationships and long term consequences (Hess and Kenner 3). A few of the disorders a child with FAS may suffer