The importance of birth control and planned pregnancies cannot be overstated. Each year, as many as forty thousand babies are subjected to alcohol content in the first trimester of their development and as a result, emerge from the womb already at a disadvantage with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
This preventable birth defect often occurs because mothers do not realize they are pregnant until it is too late. Doctors are not sure exactly how much alcohol consumption damages a baby’s development, but they do know that the more you drink, the more at risk your baby will be.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is one of the few known preventable causes of mental retardation. Physical features of someone with FAS may include any or all of the following:
- Small eyes
- Short, upturned nose
- Small head circumference
- Thin upper lip
- Cleft palate
- Light sensitivity
- Hypo plastic kidneys
- Short neck
- Deformed joints or limbs
It is likely that prenatal exposure to alcohol will have side effects, such as slow physical growth and development before and after birth, vision or hearing difficulties, hyperactivity, poor impulse control, extreme nervousness, learning disabilities and a short attention span.
It is best to seek medical advice right away and be forthcoming with your doctor about your alcohol consumption. Doctors cannot diagnose Fetal Alcohol Syndrome before a baby is born, but they can determine the risk. In your baby’s initial weeks of life, the doctor can monitor for birth defects and abnormalities that may become long-lasting troubles. It is believed that women who drink more than eight drinks per sitting put their babies at the highest level of risk.
For parents of children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, there are a few tips to help you and your child cope. The most important factor is living in a stable and nurturing home for over seventy two percent of life. Other factors include being diagnosed with FAS before age six, staying away from violence, remaining in each living situation for three years or more, experiencing a good quality, home life from eight to twelve years of age, finding developmental disability services and having basic needs met for at least thirteen percent of life. Being exposed to creative hobbies such as playing musical instruments, reading, woodworking, poetry or drawing is also important.
Support groups are available for parents through The National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome – NOFAS