A national survey once taken, reported that more than half of women ages 15-44 drank alcohol while pregnant. Of those, 66% reported drinking in the first trimester and 54% reported drinking in the third trimester. 1 in every 750 infants is born with symptoms of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, while another 40,000 are born with Fetal Alcohol Effects also known as FAE. The research regarding FAS dates back to 1973. From 1973-1978, 245 cases of FAS were reported. The average cost to take care of a child with FAS is around 800,000. (Armstrong, Elizabeth M. Conceiving Risk, Bearing Responsibility: Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and the Diagnosis of Moral Disorder: Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University, 2003.)
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(Prof. David J Hanson PHD Sociology Department State University of New York Potsdam, NY 1997.)
At birth, some babies can be diagnosed with FAS. In some severe cases of FAS, it can be detected via an ultrasound. After birth, facial problems such small narrow eyes, a small head, a small upper jaw, smooth grooves in the upper lip, and or a smooth upper lip can be seen. Deformalities of joints, limbs, and fingers can also be found.
In 1996, the Institute of Medicine suggested a five-level system, to describe the birth defects, learning, and behavioral difficulties. Doctors access the child’s growth, facial features, heart health, hearing, vision, cognitive abilities, language development, and motor skills. Although there are no tests that can be run while pregnant to determine the severity of FAS, it is possible to see during pregnancy if the fetus is growing correctly via ultrasound.
A blood test may be given to the baby shortly after it is born to determine if there's alcohol in the blood. A blood test can only be done immediately after the baby is born, once the alcohol leaves the bloodstream, the only other way to diagnose FAS is through physical signs or a clinical diagnosis. Many experts are torn between whether or not any amount of alcohol is acceptable to drink during pregnancy. When dealing with school age children, a psychoeducational evaluation to come up with an educational plan can be very helpful. Some doctors feel that moderate consumption is okay, while others feel it is not worth the potential risk. It has been proven that alcohol does go straight through the mother's blood, into the blood stream of the placenta. (NIH Publication No. 96-4101 Reprinted 2006.) Research has determined that a developing fetus has a very low tolerance for alcohol.
Unfortunately, there is no treatment for FAS, during or after pregnancy. Children born to mothers who drink alcohol while pregnant can have a different range of health issues. They can stem from moderate to severe. The best cure is not to drink at all. If drinking has already occurred, the sooner a doctor is informed the better. The earlier FAS is caught, the earlier a child can be helped.
FAS are 100% preventable. Mothers can simply not drink, which completely prevents FAS. Warning labels on alcohol is another prevention strategy that can be taken. In 1981, the Surgeon General issued a warning to pregnant women, stating that the amount of alcohol that an expecting mother consumes should be limited. Whether or not that warning is followed, is completely up to the mother. Even though it is impossible for a woman to know the exact moment she gets pregnant, it is important that one she knows she is pregnant, that she refrain from drinking any alcohol which includes wine, beer, hard liquor, and cocktails.
According to Medline Plus, (Carlo WA. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics 18th ed. Philadephia, PA: Saunders Elsevier: 2007: chapter 100.2...