Reading Time: 10 minutes
Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is the condition affecting children who get exposed to alcohol as a fetus. It occurs when the expectant mother uses alcohol during pregnancy. Pregnant women must refrain from alcohol during their pregnancy as it can affect their unborn child. FAS can result in brain damage as well as growth problems in children leading to long-term complications. The severity of the issue varies from one child to another. But, it is impossible to reverse the complications or defects that affect a child.
Drinking even small amounts of alcohol during the pregnancy can put your baby at high risk of such problems. Doctors advise expectant mothers to completely stop using alcohol to avoid FAS. But, if you suspect your child has FAS, then you need to consult a doctor immediately. Therefore, early diagnosis of the issue can reduce complications. So, you can reduce problems like behavioral issues and learning difficulties to a certain extent with early medical care.
What Is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?
Women who drink during their pregnancy can deliver babies who have physical, behavioral, and cognitive abnormalities. The children are susceptible to a different range of disorders. Therefore, fetal alcohol syndrome refers to a severe mental or physical problem suffered by children of women who consume alcohol even during pregnancy. The severity of the problem depends on the amount and frequency of alcohol consumption.
Some children exhibit mild problems. It comes under the group of conditions known as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs). Not every child exposed to alcohol in the womb can suffer the negative effects of FASDs. Therefore, it is diagnosed when the children meet specific criteria like:
- They must exhibit at least three characteristic facial abnormalities.
- Newborn having smaller prenatal and/or postnatal head circumference, weight or length compared to normal range growth parameters.
- Possible central nervous system abnormalities, including reduced brain growth and function. It can cause academic or behavioral abnormalities.
- Congenital malformation of significant organs like eyes, kidney, heart or suffer from hearing loss.
Apart from FAS, which refers to the severe form of FASD with the children suffering both birth defects and neurological disorders, the other types include:
Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Children suffering from the issue show some signs and mild symptoms of FAS. But, they never meet the criteria for proper diagnosis. So, children only have very mild signs.
Alcohol-Related Birth Defects
Pregnant women consuming alcohol can expose their unborn child to the dangers of physical abnormalities. Therefore, children exposed to alcohol in the womb have more chances of physical deformities.
Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopment Disorder
Children exposed alcohol during their development in the womb can suffer intellectual disabilities. Therefore, the children can also suffer from learning problem or behavioral issues, which with lasting and irreversible effects.
Neurobehavioral Disorder Associated With Prenatal Alcohol Exposure
The consumption of alcohol by the expectant mothers can cause neurobehavioral disorders in the child. It causes neurocognitive impairments. So, a child can experience memory problems, mental health issues, communication problems, and trouble with daily living due to lack of skills.
Unlike other problems, FAS triggers severe physical and mental complications. So, the children of women who drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy can suffer from the following:
- Memory problems
- Short attention span
- Trouble hearing
- Vision problems
- Lack of ability to learn and/or communicate
The defects can vary from child to child. In most cases, the child suffers irreversible damage. With proper medical care and assistance, a child can manage the symptoms effectively. Early detection and management will improve the chances of leading a normal life. Therefore, parents who suspect fetal alcohol syndrome in their children need to contact their medical care provider immediately.
Causes Of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
First Three Months Of Pregnancy
Women who plan to get pregnant or suspect they are pregnant need to stop drinking completely. Children can suffer damage even during the first few weeks of pregnancy when the expectant woman may not know about the pregnancy. So, women who drink heavily can face a high risk of having children with fetal alcohol syndrome. Although consuming alcohol at any time during the pregnancy can cause harm, the risk increases during the first trimester.
How Alcohol Triggers The Issue?
When an expectant mother drinks alcohol, it easily passes through the placenta to the fetus. The developing fetus does not have the capability to process alcohol the same way as a full-grown person. The alcohol becomes more concentrated in the fetus. So, it prevents oxygen and nutrition from getting to the fetus. It causes the deprivation of nutrition in the vital organs of the fetus.
Symptoms Of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
When you suspect your child has some physical or mental problems, you need to seek a doctor’s assistance. The problems you see due to fetal alcohol syndrome can vary from mild to severe. Therefore, the possible symptoms that indicate FAS are:
The children who suffer from FAS can exhibit some physical deformities. So, the diverse physical issues you can see in such children are:
- Head with a small circumference
- Abnormal facial features including small and wide-set eyes, the smooth ridge between the nose and upper lip, a thin upper lip, or other atypical facial features
- Deformed limbs or fingers
- Below average height
- Low weight
The kids with FAS can experience health problems. The common problem associated with FAS are:
- Heart problems
- Kidney abnormalities and defects
- Vision problems
- Trouble hearing
Children with FAS can also suffer from several mental issues. Therefore, the mental problems include the following:
- Lack of focus
- Poor judgment
- Poor coordination
- Delayed development
- Issues with movement, speech, thinking, and social skills
- Learning disabilities
- Intellectual disability
- Mood swings
When you observe any of the issues, then contact your doctor immediately. So with good care, you can manage the symptoms better.
Diagnosis Of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Understand that an early diagnosis can ensure a better outcome. If you observe any of the signs mentioned above in your child, you need to consult a doctor. Subsequently, you need to let your doctor know about your concerns. If you have consumed alcohol during your pregnancy, then you need to mention it to your doctor. Once you take your child to the doctor, the professional caretaker can perform the following techniques for proper diagnosis.
The doctor can perform a complete physical test on the child to detect problems like heart murmur or other complications. As the baby matures, other issues can appear that confirms the diagnosis of fetal alcohol syndrome. So, the problems that point towards the issue is:
- A slow rate of growth
- Small head size
- Abnormal facial features
- Vision problems
- Hearing issues
- Abnormal bone growth
- Poor coordination
- Slow language acquisition
Though the signs associated with FAS can never heal completely, some factors can influence the management of the problem. Researches have established that a child with FAS can manage better in life when the following occurs:
- Early diagnosis of the problem (before the child is six years old)
- Have a stable, loving, and nurturing home during their developmental years
- Are not exposed to any types of violence
- Access the assistance from special education services and social services
Treatment Options Available For Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
You need to understand that fetal alcohol syndrome has no permanent cure. With early diagnosis, your child can make good progress. The treatment plan adopted by the doctor depends on the severity of the symptoms each child exhibits. In most cases, your child may require treatment from specialists. So, you need to seek assistance from specialist doctors like:
- Primary care providers
- Plastic surgeons
- Mental health professionals
- Speech therapists
- Occupational therapists
Home Care For Children With Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Children suffering from FAS need a loving and stable home. So, as parents of children affected by the syndrome, you need to ensure you have a peaceful atmosphere at home. Understanding the needs of the child can help you develop a routine that will benefit your child. Disruptions in the routine can affect the child adversely. Kids with fetal alcohol syndrome can develop problems with violence as well as substance abuse. Therefore, you have to provide the child with a regular routine, understandable rules to follow, and reward them when they show positive behavior. A good atmosphere at home can help the child thrive and achieve normalcy.
Medication For Managing Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
No particular pharmaceutical drugs or medicines are available to treat the syndrome. The doctors often provide the children affected by the issue with medications to manage the severities. FAS accompanies with other problems like hyper energy, lack of focus, and depression. So, the doctor may often medications to manage the symptoms effectively. The following drugs can offer relief from severe symptoms:
One of the main issues that children affected by FAS is the behavior of disruptive disorders. So, stimulants also known as uppers can offer a temporary reprieve from the high level of physiological activities. Stimulants can treat symptoms like:
- Lack of focus
- Impulse control disorder
- Hyperactivity disorder
FAS-affected children can suffer from major depressive disorders. So, the antidepressants can offer relief from the disorders and prevent it from recurring. The anti-depressants can treat several symptoms like:
- Anti-social behaviors
- Sleep disorders
- School disruptions
- Loss of interest
- Sad Mood
It is also known as major tranquilizers or antipsychotics that can treat several mental health conditions. It can treat behavioral symptoms, psychological problems, and mental health conditions. So, your doctor can offer the medications for the following conditions like:
It is offered for children with fetal alcohol syndrome who suffer immense nervousness. The drugs can provide peace as well as the relaxation from anxiety and phobias.
Behavior And Education Therapy
It is one of the important parts of treatment for children who suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome. Education and behavior therapy can manage developmental disabilities in children. Subsequently, it is one of the few scientifically approved procedures for children suffering from FAS.
It is a specific program for children suffering from FAS. In most cases, children affected by the syndrome have difficulty learning skills that will help them deal socially. Children can learn to share with others, learn involvement in a group, and deal with issues. The training offers the necessary teaching to the children and enhances their social skills.
Families Moving Forward Program
The FMF program aims to support the families associated with kids exhibiting challenging behavior. The program has a team of specialized physiological professionals. So, the professional team can guide the children and their parents in the right direction. It mostly strives to make the children overcome their challenging behavior.
Math Interactive Learning Experience is a program that can improve the mathematical knowledge of children affected by fetal alcohol syndrome. The program can also improve the problem-solving ability of the affected children. It also helps the parents gain knowledge about behavioral regulation techniques. It can improve the challenged child’s ability to learn easily.
Parents And Children Together (PACT)
PACT is the program that concentrates on improving the self-regulation and executive functioning in children suffered from FAS. It is a neurocognitive habilitation program that offers training to both parents and children. Therefore, it trains them to gain knowledge on the current behavior status of the child, improve the behavior regulation and perform several functions. With the program, the affected children can perform, organize, plan, and understand. While the parents can train themselves with skills as well as behaviors that aids and supports the children’s life.
Remember that not just the children affected by FAS need treatment, but also their parents need training. The FAS-affected children may not respond like normal children to the usual parenting methods. Therefore, as parents, you need to educate yourself about the child’s disabilities. You can gain access to the various parent training programs dedicated to addressing the issue. It offers you an insight into the various techniques that help your child overcome disabilities. You can guide your child to enhance their skillsets and function normally by overcoming the complications of fetal alcohol syndrome.
Sessions To Understand The Situation Better
You can either attend a family session or group session to gain valuable knowledge. Children suffering from the problem may experience unique variations. Therefore, one child may not have the signs that the other affected child possesses. But, you can follow some general tips that you can implement. The following tips will benefit you to a great extent:
- The first step as a parent, you need to accept your child’s disability. It will help you eliminate the unrealistic expectation you have about your child.
- You need to precisely convey what you expect from your child.
- Use a specific language to practice and make your child respond to the language.
- Concentrate on the talents and strengths of your child rather than their weakness.
- Follow a fixed routine, which you must follow religiously without any change.
- You can use different activities and methods to improve your child’s learning ability. The most effective ones are visual aids, music, and hands-on activities.
Therefore, following the tips will help you come to terms with your child’s issue and help them manage everyday tasks.
Alternative Treatments For Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Some parents seek alternative treatment options for their children suffering from FAS. Therefore, the following techniques that belong outside the medical establishment can offer relief to an extent:
- Animal-Assisted Therapy
- Creative Art Therapy
- Relaxation Therapy
- Auditory Training
- Energy Healing
- Visual Imagery
Preventing Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
It is possible to prevent fetal alcohol syndrome and avoid it from affecting the unborn child. Women who are planning to get pregnant or suspect pregnancy need to avoid alcohol completely till the baby is born. If women who drink heavily plan to get pregnant, then they need to seek a doctor’s advice. The doctor’s assistance can help them take steps that will aid in having a healthy baby. Women who drink socially or occasionally need to stop drinking if they plan to get pregnant any time soon. Alcohol can cause side-effects in full-grown people. So, it can trigger more issues in developing a fetus. The effects of alcohol can cause everlasting issues in children even when expectant mothers consume alcohol during the first few weeks of pregnancy.
Children affected by fetal alcohol syndrome have a friendly and cheerful nature. But, caring for a child with FAS can become challenging to you as parents. With good guidance and patience, the child can enjoy social interaction and handle everyday activities. Remember that no cure is available for the issue, so the kids may face lifelong learning issues along with behavioral problems. So, you need to provide your child with a safe and loving home environment to ensure good care. Early intervention and support can reduce the negative effects of FAS. To prevent the syndrome, it is important to get help for the expectant mothers who consume alcohol or struggle with addiction. Therefore, taking the right action before you deliver the child can prevent long-term complications.View Article Sources