Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: The Facts
Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a term used by doctors to describe the severe birth defects that can result if a pregnant woman consumes alcohol.
Although drinking alcohol during pregnancy does not always cause FAS, doctors do not know exactly how much or how little can lead to the condition; it is known however, that just one heavy drinking session whereby a mother-to-be-drinks 5 or more alcoholic beverages can lead to it.
Any alcohol taken during pregnancy is unsafe and those women who are attempting to become pregnant or who are already pregnant are advised to abstain from alcohol completely. The reason for this is that the fetal brain is in a constant state of development and any damage caused now could have severe repercussions later down the line.
Alcohol passes easily through the placental barrier and can cause the developing baby's growth to be stunted, as well as leading to brain damage.
Babies born with FAS often have characteristic facial features such as:
a small head;
a flat face with narrow eye openings;
a small upturned nose;
a flattened groove between the nose and upper lip;
an unusually thin upper lip
Fetal alcohol syndrome can also result in birth defects involving the ears, eyes, heart, bones or urinary tract.
Children suffering from FAS usually have had a low birth weight and delayed growth compared with other children in the same age group and of the same sex.
They also tend to suffer from problems relating to their central nervous system and with their cognitive (behaviour and thinking) development. In turn, these can lead to problems with memory function, poor fine motor skills, impulsive behaviour, ADD (attention deficit disorder), problems with hand-eye coordination, hyperactivity, extreme mood swings and difficulties with maths skills in later years.
The only way to prevent fetal alcohol syndrome is to completely cut alcohol out of your diet whilst you are preparing for pregnancy and for the entire period that you are pregnant.
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