Alcohol consumed during pregnancy has a harmful effect on the baby`s development. Women who consume alcohol while expecting a baby have to know that the alcohol, once is ingested, it passed through the maternal-fetal barrier (the area where the substance exchange between the mother and fetus occurs in the placenta), so it reaches the blood and cells of the fetus. The harmful effects of alcohol are mainly exerted on the nervous system, a tissue with a high affinity to alcohol.
Table of Contents
- 1 What Is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?
- 2 Why Alcohol Is Bad in Pregnancy?
- 3 Alcohol Consumption during Breastfeeding
- 4 Causes & Risk Factors
- 5 What Are the Symptoms of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?
- 6 How Does Alcohol Affect the Fetus?
- 7 Preventing FAS
- 8 Can You Treat Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?
What Is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?
Fetal alcohol syndrome, also known as FAS, might occur in expecting mothers who choose to consume alcohol while pregnant. This medical condition can show in several forms in the fetus, the most common ones involving abnormal facial features, behavioral issues, delayed growth, organ dysfunction or poor memory. However, the worst thing is that all of these issues may increase during the children`s lives.
Why Alcohol Is Bad in Pregnancy?
Lots of mothers are asking themselves: “Why is alcohol bad during pregnancy?” The answer is simple: the alcohol ingested by the mother can traverse the placenta and reach the baby, who is in full physical and neurological development. For the future mother, a glass of alcohol may not even make her dizzy, but a baby of a few centimeters will decompose alcohol a lot more harder and it`s possible for the his blood to get a lot more alcohol and the mother`s blood.
Alcohol puts the health and life of the baby at risk. Future mothers who choose to drink alcohol while pregnant may experience a miscarriage, stillbirth, give birth prematurely or to babies with low weight at birth.
Scientific research shows that pregnant women who consume alcohol regularly might experience issues with their children at a later date. Their babies may also experience problems that involve attention, learning, speech or hyperactivity. They may also experience an aggressive behavior. The risk for a child to experience mental problems is higher for mothers who consume alcohol while expecting a baby.
What Happens If You Consume Alcohol without Knowing You`re Pregnant?
The consumption of a moderate amount of alcohol in early pregnancy, before the future mother even knew she is pregnant doesn`t affect pregnancy. Expecting mothers can remain peaceful if they are in these situations and not think they put the lives of their future baby at risk. Of course, the consumption of alcohol should be stopped immediately as the mother finds out she is pregnant.
Alcohol Consumption during Breastfeeding
Just as during pregnancy, the consumption of alcohol while breastfeeding is strictly forbidden, and this is mainly because alcohol can pass through the placenta. It`s true, the amount of alcohol will be much lower in this case than the amount of alcohol consumed by the mother. However, it was scientifically proven that babies whose mothers drank alcohol during breastfeeding have suffered motor developmental deficiencies later.
If you are pregnant, it`s good to stay away from non-alcoholic beverages as well. It`s possible for these to have traces of alcohol. It`s true that you can only experience issues only if you drink large amounts of alcohol, but why risk?
Causes & Risk Factors
Several features or conditions might alter the risk of FAS among women who consume alcohol during pregnancy.
- Women over 30 years old.
- Women with a long history of alcohol consumption.
- Poor maternal nutritional status.
- Women who already have a child with this syndrome.
- Genetic susceptibility has been suggested in certain studies.
- Nitric oxide synthesis deficiency aggravates neuronal loss and microcephaly and through alcohol consumption.
What Are the Symptoms of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?
Since FAS covers a large range of issues, there are lots of possible signs. Their severity ranges from mild to serious, and may include:
- A small head size.
- Below average weight or height.
- Lack of concentration.
- Poor judgment.
- Mood swings.
- Learning disabilities.
- Heart issues.
- Kidney abnormalities or defects.
- Hearing or seeing issues.
- Deformed fingers or limbs.
How Does Alcohol Affect the Fetus?
This syndrome represents a severe result of a range of effects which may occur following the consumption of alcohol of an expecting mother. The death of the fetus is the most extreme result. The illness is disorder characterized through abnormal facial features, growth and developmental issues of the central nervous system. If a mother who is expecting a child consumes alcohol, but the baby doesn`t show any of the syndrome`s signs, it`s possible for him to experience alcohol related neurodevelopmental disorders. Children with such disorders don`t have all FAS characteristics, but they may experience learning and behavioral issues due to prenatal exposure to alcohol.
Children with this syndrome may have the following physical characteristics and behavioral disorders:
- Shorter than other children of the same age.
- Facial malformations (e.g. a low eye opening).
- Poor movement coordination.
- Hyperactive behavior.
- Learning and developmental disorders.
- Sleep disorders.
- Issues in everyday life.
- Poor IQ or mental retardation.
- Poor ability to argue or judge things.
Children with this syndrome are at higher risk of criminal behavior, incomplete education, psychiatric issues or unemployment. There are secondary disorders which can be rather serious, but there are a few protective factors which have been discovered for these people to be helped. For instance, if a child is diagnosed in his early years of life, he might be placed in specialized institutions and might have access to particular social services that can offer help for him along with his family.
The children with FAS who receive additional help are more prone to develop their intellectual potential. Additionally, this type of children needs a stable life characterized by love and guidance to help them avoid any sort of disruption, passage and harmful relationships. Children with this syndrome who live in unstable or abusive environments, or are involved in acts of violence during childhood are a lot more exposed to the development of secondary disorders than the other children with the same issues, but who haven`t been subjects to such experiences.
A woman who wants to become pregnant needs to stop drinking immediately. If she has difficulties in interrupting alcohol use, she needs to get professional help from a specialized clinic or communities with help programs.
If she is already pregnant, she needs to stop alcohol consumption during pregnancy and if she cannot, ask for the help of a specialist or specialized organization, which can offer a suitable program to help her stop drinking.
It isn`t know if a certain amount of alcohol can be consumed without being dangerous for the health of the future mother or her baby. That`s why, it`s recommended to avoid alcohol consumption altogether.
The incidence of FAS is around 2.1 out of 1.000 of live babies born in Europe and North America.
Can You Treat Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?
The treatment for a child with this syndrome includes therapeutic regimens for associated birth defects as well as programs to relieve cognitive and behavioral disorders. The syndrome cannot be cured and shows symptoms throughout the entire life of the sick child. An early intervention might improve the development of the baby.
There are lots of types of treatments to help some of the symptoms, including drugs, educational and behavioral therapy or parenting. No treatment isn’t unique to the child`s problems.
No drug has been specifically approved by FDA to treat FAS. Several drugs can help relieve some of the signs. For instance, drugs help control depression, high energy levels or lack of attention. Stimulants represent a type of medication for signs like:
- Disturbances of attention.
- Other behavioral disorders.
Antidepressants are used to treat signs like:
- Loss of interest.
- Anti-social behaviors.
- Sleep issues.
Nicotinamide dynamizes the action of lots of enzymes and is very important for cellular function. Along with other vitamin B3 forms, it has been used as a food supplement to treat or prevent pellagra. Recent research shows that this vitamin is neuroprotective. Nicotinamide inhibits neuronal apoptosis, which is caused by oxygen deprivation. Apoptosis induction is a well known mechanism by which ethanol uses to attack neurons. The usage of this vitamin diminishes the effects of hyperactivity or fear because of the exposure to alcohol, and also prevents the impairment of the memory and learning process attacked by alcohol. Research shows that there`s only several hours in which the administration of nicotinamide protects neurons. There are still lots of research required to determine the nicotinamide amount which protects neurons.
The administration of cholesterol may prevent physical defects and the destruction neurons in fetal exposure to alcohol. Cholesterol is essential when it comes to the development of the fetus. Expecting mothers who don`t consume sufficient cholesterol experience a high risk of giving birth to babies with developmental malformations, even without the consumption of alcohol. Scientists have discovered that alcohol, even in small amounts, prevents the cholesterol activity of triggering a series of events that are involved in regulating the development of organs in embryonic life. Supplementing cholesterol generally undermines the effects of alcohol exposure. There`s a study which have discovered that women who consumed statins in weight loss diets are at a high risk of giving birth to babies with developmental malformations.