Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects is a problem running rampant and out of control all across America. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is the effect of pregnant women-drinking alcohol. Through education, we can eradicate this expensive and debilitating disease that is plaguing our children and our country.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome was first diagnosed about 25 years ago. A group of doctors at the University of Washington in Seattle corned the term Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in 1973 (Dorris 143). Prior to this Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects children were misdiagnosed as problem children or Learning Disabled. Some were mistaken for bad kids and sent to homes for juvenile delinquents.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is a grouping of defects that may occur in infants born to women who drink alcohol during pregnancy. Amy Nevitt states, FAS, the leading cause of retardation in the west affects more than 8000 babies in the United States every year.
FAS is a birth defect caused by a womans consumption of alcohol while she is pregnant. FAS is one hundred percent preventable, however, because of their mothers decision to drink alcohol during pregnancy, none of the thousands of affected babies had a chance to be born normal (13). As stated by the British Columbia Fetal Alcohol Community Action Guide (B.C. FAS), Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is a condition affecting some children born to women who drank heavily during pregnancy (7).
Fetal Alcohol Effects is a term used to describe Partial FAS. The B.C. FAS says the new term for describing FAE effects is Alcohol-Related Birth Defects (ARBD)(9). FAE is best described by the B.C. FAS who says, FAE has been used to imply a milder form of FAS, but the cognitive and behavioral problems described by FAE (now partial FAS and ARND) can be very debilitating, causing life long disability which is not mild or insignificant (8).
As written in the B.C. FAS booklet:
Partial FAS is the recommended term used to describe the cluster of problems facing those, who have: SIC evidence of some of the characteristic facial abnormalities associated with FAS , evidence of one other component of FAS, i.e. growth deficiency or brain damage, including behavioural and cognitive problems when it is known that there was significant exposure to alcohol in utero. (8)
We ask ourselves what causes Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects! Amy Nevitt articulates, Alcohol is a teratogenic drug. This means that it can cause birth defects (15). The more information we have about alcohol and its effects the sooner we can help stop this debilitating disease. Lyn Weiner and Barbara A. Morse declares:
Ethanol has the potential to cause a greater variety of metabolic and physiologic disturbances of fetal development than any other commonly ingested substance. The clinical and experimental literature provides an ever-increasing understanding of the mechanisms underlying alcohols adverse effects on fetal development. Effects vary with each gestational stage. Alcohol consumption throughout pregnancy is associated with the most severe outcome. The demonstrated benefits when heavy drinking ceases reinforces the value of providing supportive therapy to women at risk. The prenatal setting is an important site for prevention of alcohol-related birth defects. Identification and treatment of problem drinking pregnant women holds the greatest promise for the prevention of alcohol-related birth defects. (145)
As stated by Weiner and Morse, through experimental studies clinical observations have shown structural growth and behavioral defects in association with maternal ethanol exposure. The consumption of alcohol has since been widely acknowledged to be a risk factor for adverse pregnancy outcome (126-27).
Drinking when pregnant causes damage to the fetus. According to Nevitt, The amount of damage depends on the frequency, quantity, and timing of the mothers alcohol consumption (18). The facts of how many pregnant women who drink while pregnant, according to Nevitt is, About 16 percent of pregnant women drink enough alcohol to be at risk for bearing children with some negative effects (13).
It is unclear how much alcohol consumption a pregnant woman can or can not drink during pregnancy (Nevitt 17,18). The best thing is to abstain from drinking any alcoholic beverages while pregnant. Signs of FAS include low birth weight and an abnormally small head; facial deformities such as small and narrow or very round eyes, flattened midface and widely spaced nose, very narrow upper lip, and oddly set ears; and mild to moderate mental retardation. As FAS children develop, they also often exhibit behavioral and cognitive problems. In some cases the defects are severe and are accompanied by other systemic abnormalities. When some but not all of these signs are observed, they are more generally known as fetal alcohol effects (FAE)(Weiner and Morse 128).
Children with FAE are less likely to be diagnosed early in life because they dont get treatment as early as FAS children because they are identified as needing help much later in life. Which is sometimes too late to help them.
There are many adverse effects of drinking alcohol. As early as 1886 doctors noted the frequency of reported spontaneous abortions by women who were alcoholics (Abel 47). As illustrated in the article by Rana Shaskin, the birth defects associated with FAS are groupings of defects are present. These defects are central nerve system damage, growth deficiency, and physical abnormality (1). The average birth weight of an FAS baby is almost three pounds lighter than the median birth weight for all infants born in the United States (Abel 55).
Other adverse effects of alcohol on the fetus are premature birth. As Abel says, prenatal death and neurological disorders of surviving children can be connected to the pregnant mothers alcohol consumption (52). There are many abnormalities associated with FAS. The child can have skeletal cardiac, liver, kidney, and urinary; along with neural-tube defects, genital and tumors due to alcohol use by the mother (46). Research shows that people with FAS have an average IQ of 65. Scores ranged from 16 to 105 (83).
Alcohol causes serious damage to the central nervous system (CNS). As Weiner implies, The damage to the CNS may be further complicated by a home in which one or both parents is alcoholic (131). The most common sign of alcohols effects on fetal development is retarded growth in weight, length and head circumference, both in utero and during childhood (129).
As Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects children get older their problems only multiply. Because as stated by Michael Dorris, FAS students do not seem to try to learn or finish their school assignments. Usually FAS children show no drive or persistence towards schoolwork (205). According to Shaskin, as FAS children grow into adolescence their problems increase. They drop out of school and have more incidents of behavioral problems (4).
People with FAS have a number of learning disabilities, some of which include a difficulty in generalizing information and matching words with behaviors. They also have trouble mastering a new skill and remembering things they have recently learned, i.e.: tying a knot(Nevitt 26-8).
People with FAS also have a spotty memory, where they may remember, for example, something that happened a year ago, but cannot remember the day before. In addition, they have an inflexibility of thought, where a person with the syndrome can only understand a concept expressed in one way. Once that concept has been learned that one way, it is hard for the individual to understand it in any other context. A difficulty in predicting outcomes is another disability shared by FAS victims. For example, a child with FAS might not be able to foresee what will happen when he knocks over a cup of juice. A child with FAS often tends to make the same mistake repeatedly. Another disturbing trait shared by FAS affected people are a difficulty distinguishing fact from fantasy. A person with FAS could be watching a movie and go on thinking that what is going on in the movie is actually going on in real life. People with FAS also have an alarming difficulty distinguishing friends from strangers: they may meet someone once for about five minutes and already consider them a friend, which could be potentially dangerous(Nevitt 26-8).
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects babies are very stressful and require lots of caring and understanding. Nevitt summed up many of the difficulties of a parent of a baby that is FAS because there are many unique problem associated with FAS. Nevitt states, such as FAS/FAE babies do not thrive as well as normal babies; they have poor reflexes, and at times they have no appetite. It can sometimes take hours to feed a FAS baby four ounces of milk (21).
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects people require supervision and stern guidance throughout life. As Dorris says, FAS caretakers must provide a structured environment to the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects person. Any violation must be corrected on the spot, and consistency is a must. Clear and simple instructions that are set in stone is what works best (247). The reasons for so much supervision for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects people is clear, without supervision and a good and understanding caretaker life would be very hard and unfair for an Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects person. Tanner-Halverson says, FAS adults need a structured environment to do well and live a productive life. Adult FAS need guidance because they are still easily distracted and forgetful (1B).
At this time there is no known cure for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Effects (NOFAS 2A). The best that society can do is prevention of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Effects by educating and informing everyone and anyone who will listen on the adverse effects alcohol can have on babies and society. The medical field is the most important community to educate for the obvious reason that they are the people who will detect and treat Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome babies (NOFAS 1A).
The next group we should target is the educators, and teach the countrys educators the when, where, what, why, and how to handle a Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or Fetal Alcohol Effects person. Educators in our elementary and high schools should be able to educate our children on the effects of alcohol on the fetus, due to the rising rate of teen pregnancies (The Arc 2C).
As stated by Patricia Tanner-Halverson, Keys to working successfully with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects children are structure, consistency, variety, brevity and persistence. The next group we should target is the women who are at risk for having children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects and inform and educate them on the dangers of drinking while pregnant. Show them the consequences and the unnecessary hardships that their baby may have to endure due to her drinking alcohol.
Education along with intervention and assistance from the community is what will help stop FAS/FAE. By providing support groups for women who are alcoholic and pregnant, support groups for parent, foster parents, and caretakers of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects people.
The government could do much more for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects people. Government could require that people in the medical field be trained for so many hours on the subject of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects.
Education of the medical field is very important (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Public Awareness Campaign 1979 206). Allocating monies and giving grants for research and care of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects people. More research is needed to fine out if other drugs can cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects (The Arc 2C).
If at all possible intervention to prevent alcohol from affecting the fetus should happen as early as possible, the first trimester is when most damage is though to occur. Which makes intervention as early as possible the best chance of stop Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects from happening to the unborn child.
To help prevent Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects the father of the unborn child must also be educated on the possible results of the effect alcohol could have on the baby. It would be a lot easier for the pregnant woman to refrain from drinking if the father did not drink during the pregnancy. Armed with the knowledge of the effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects perhaps he would provide more support to the expectant mother.
Fetal alcohol exposure has life long effects and consequences that are not restricted to any one race or socio-economic group. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects does not go away, brain damage is permanent, and birth defects are also permanent. Metal retardation is permanent and irreversible, behavioral problems are permanent; all of these problems associated with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects are forever and once alcohol has done the damage there is no recovery.
However, through education we can beat Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects by educating and assisting women who are of the childbearing age. Simply put, if youre pregnant dont drink. If you need help to quit there are people waiting to help.
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