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Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

Fetal alcohol spectrum? I thought it was just fetal alcohol syndrome.

Because there are many different kinds of effects alcohol can have on a developing fetus, the name was changed to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. 


*Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is the worst version, but not as common.  It is defined by a particular set of facial anomalies, growth issues, and brain abnormalities with or without confirmed exposure to alcohol in utero.  There is a partial version that has either growth or brain abnormalities.


* Alcohol Related Birth Defects has confirmed alcohol exposure in utero, particular facial features, and at least one physical birth defect without having brain or growth issues.


*Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder is thought to be the most common of the disorders.  It has confirmed alcohol exposure in utero and either structural or functional brain issues. 


*Neurobehavioral Disorder Associated with Prenatal Alcohol Exposure.  A child has exposure to alcohol in utero and problems in three areas: thinking and memory, behavior problems, and trouble with day to day living.


What kind of mental issues can those with FASD have?

Children can have problems with things like memory, attention, judgement, impulse control, communication, vision, and hearing.  These can lead to them doing poorly in school, having trouble with law enforcement, and getting and keeping jobs.  



Can FASD be treated?

FASD cannot be cured.  Different aspects of the disorders may be treated with therapy (including speech, physical, occupational, and behavioral), some medicines.  Things such as a stable home life, decreased exposure to violence, and early intervention with the child and parents can improve their overall health. 


What causes FASD?

FASD is solely caused by exposure to alcohol in utero.  The effects can start as early as just a few weeks, when most women don’t know they are pregnant.


How common is FASD?

Since some children with FASD either have very minor issues, or ones that only come up when they’re older, it can be difficult to get an accurate number of kids with FASD.  However, current estimates are between 800 and 8,000 children are born each year with FASD.


How can FASD be prevented?

The easy answer is, don’t drink while pregnant; there is no safe amount of alcohol.  The harder version is that if you are trying to get pregnant don’t drink at all.  If you’re not trying to get pregnant, then be vigilant about birth control.  If you find out you are pregnant, you can still stop drinking, even protecting the baby in the later stages of pregnancy can be helpful.  


Bottom line.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders can cause severe physical and mental birth defects.  They are completely preventable.  If you have a child with FASD early treatment and a calm supportive home can do wonders.   




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