Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a disorder that develops in a child due to alcohol exposure during pregnancy by the mother. This syndrome is categorised by brain damage and growth defects and the severity of the condition vary from child to child, however, defects caused by fetal alcohol syndrome cannot be reversed. Well, there is no safe limit of alcohol consumption during pregnancy and if women during pregnancy drink, then they are placing the neonate at risk of fetal alcohol syndrome. If you suspect your child has fetal alcohol syndrome then seek immediate medical help, as prompt diagnosis may help to lessen problems such as learning difficulties and behavioural issues.
The condition covers a broad spectrum of problems; thus, it may exhibit many symptoms and the severity of symptoms ranges from mild to severe that include:
A small head
Abnormal facial features such as thin upper lip or smooth elevation between upper lip and nose, wide eyes.
Below average height and weight for age
Poor concentration span
Delayed development and issues in thinking, speech, mobility and social skills
Problems in clearly seeing or hearing
Deformed upper and lower extremities
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Pregnant women if they consume alcohol, can have the following impacts on the fetus:
Alcohol pass into the bloodstream and reaches the developing fetus via the placenta.
This result in higher blood alcohol levels in the foetus than in pregnant women, as the fetus metabolises alcohol much slower than an adult.
Alcohol interferes with poor delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the developing neonate.
Exposure to alcohol before birth can damage the development of tissues and organs that cause permanent brain damage in the baby.
The more women drink alcohol while pregnant, the higher the risk to the fetus. However, any minimal amount of alcohol can put the baby at risk. The baby’s brain, heart and blood vessels begin to develop in the early weeks of pregnancy, before the women may know that they’re pregnant.
Damage of facial features, the heart, and other organs such as the bones and the central nervous system may happen because of consuming alcohol during the first trimester.
Some of the complications associated with fetal alcohol syndrome as the child grows to include:
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Poor social conduct, aggressive nature, and breaking laws
Mental problems like depression, anxiety or eating disorders
Problems being independent living and with employment
Poor sexual behaviours
Early death by suicide or accident
The earlier the diagnosis, the better is the treatment outcome, thus it is essential to talk to your healthcare provider if you suspect your child may have FAS. Also, it is important to inform your doctor if you had consumed alcohol while being pregnant.
A complete physical examination of the child may show a heart murmur or any other heart disorders. As the baby grows, there may be other signs that may help the doctor to confirm the diagnosis. These include:
Poor growth rate
Abnormal facial features or bone growth
Hearing and vision problems
Slow language achievement
Small head size for age
To diagnose that the child has FAS, the doctor would first determine if the child had any abnormal facial features, slower growth rare and central nervous system disorders it would be physical or behavioural. Further, the child may be hyperactive, lack focus or have poor learning abilities.
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Well, fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is not curable, there are a few treatment options available to ease some symptoms. If a prompt diagnosis is done, a more positive outcome can be achieved. Depending upon the nature of the symptoms, a child with FAS may need a specialist or several doctor visits. Special education and social activities can support young children to improve their social skills and behaviours.
Children with FAS will greatly benefit from a balanced and loving environment at home. Children should be encouraged to carry out their regular routine, simple goals, and rule to follow, and rewards for positive behaviour.
There are no specific medications that can treat FAS, however, there are several medications that may help ease symptoms. These medications include:
Behavioural training may also work, for example, friendship training may help children learn social skills for interacting with peer groups. Executive function training may enhance skills like self-control, reasoning, and understanding cause and effect.
Parents and siblings may also need assistance in managing the challenges FTS can cause, this help can be through support groups. Parents can also get customised parental training to address the needs of their children, this will teach them how best to interact with and take care of the child.