The leading causes of Foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) are a combination of conditions that occur when an expecting mother drinks alcohol during pregnancy, and this affects her unborn child.
Also known as Andrew Syndrome or FAS, Foetal Alcohol Syndrome is essentially a series of signs and symptoms that result in the impairment of the child’s development in the uterus, brought about by there being alcohol in the mother’s bloodstream and the child exposed to alcohol during pregnancy. Alcohol present in the mother’s blood passes to the baby through the umbilical cord.
Healthcare Improvement Scotland has produced new guidelines for people affected by FASD.
The pamphlet is available for download Here.
From recent research, it has been found that heavy maternal alcohol consumption can adversely impact on foetal development and lead to significant postnatal and long-term problems for a child. The occurrence of FAS has been found to be strongly associated with heavy maternal alcohol use – particularly in cases of alcohol dependence or severe alcohol problems – and with the frequency of heavily dosed drinking.
Symptoms of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome
- A significant growth retardation/deficiency. This is defined as being below average height, weight or both. Everybody is
different, so allowances are made for the parent’s measurements and other factors such as gestational age and poor nutrition.
- Children affected by FAS develop very distinctive abnormalities of the facial bone structure and features, including a smooth philtrum – the groove between the upper lip and nose, a thin vermilion – thin upper lip – and small palpebral fissures – eye width. FASDs refer to a collection of examinations that represents the results for a child when their mother drank alcohol during her pregnancy. These conditions and the level of alcohol can affect each person in a series of different ways and can grade from mild to severe. The abnormal facial features can be a sign of relating brain damage; this is because the face is, in fact, part of the brain during development.
- Foetal Alcohol Effects describe intellectual disabilities and problems with behaviour and learning in a person whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. The more distinctive the signs of FAS, the more likely that brain damage is present.
- Central Nervous System damage is a central feature of FAS. It is assessed by doctors in three areas: small head size, problems with attention and hyperactivity, poor coordination. Damage caused to the Central nervous system can range in severity according to the frequency and timing of alcohol exposure.
Measures Assessed for FASD Examinations
- Definite – Structural impairments or neurological impairments
for FAS or static encephalopathy.
- Probable – Significant impairment of two standard irregularities
- Possible – Mild to moderate impairment of two standard
irregularities or by the judgement of the clinical evaluation that CNS damage cannot be
- Unlikely – No evidence of Central nervous system damage.
- Structural abnormalities of the brain, observable as irregularities of the skull’s shape. Drinking alcohol may result in Microcephaly. This is due mainly to alcohol exposure during the first trimester of pregnancy when the brain is arranging structural development. Exposure to alcohol during the third trimester can damage the development of the hippocampus, and memory problems, learning, emotion and sensory cognition.
- Neurological abnormalities of the brain. When the previous symptoms are clear, likely, these will show as either ‘hard’ signs such as epilepsy and seizures, or ‘soft’ signs such as poor motor skills or hand-eye coordination.
- Functional impairment of the brain, observable by measuring ongoing development if the structural and neurological signs defy
assessment. The observations are made using a series of standardised tests and look for learning disabilities, impulse control, memory, attention, communication skills, social awareness etc.
Alongside all of the above, mostly brain abnormalities, the exposed child may develop a series of other physiological symptoms. These are considered to be Alcohol-Related Birth Defects, and although they are associated with FAS, also present when FAS does not and are therefore not considered FAS Diagnostic Criteria.
How Does Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Affect A Child?
People with Alcohol-Related Birth Defects have problems with how some of their organs were developed and or how they perform, including:
- Bones (possibly the spine)
Foetal Alcohol Syndrome is caused by exposing your child to alcohol while you are still carrying your child. If you have drunk alcohol during pregnancy, it is not too late to stop drinking as brain growth continues throughout pregnancy. If a woman stops drinking, the better it will be for her and her baby. It is highly preferable for the baby that no alcohol is consumed at all. That way, there is minimal risk to either the mother or child during pregnancy, and the child has the best chance of problem-free development.
If you’re pregnant and struggling with an alcohol problem, we can give confidential help and support. Contact us now on 02072052845.