Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Prevention is the Key

Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is the result of damage caused to a fetus from the mother drinking alcohol during pregnancy. The main area of damage is to the brain, resulting in retardation (average IQ of 60), poor judgment, behavior problems, poor motor skills, and small head size due to poor brain development. Other signs include small eyes, smooth upper lip, with very thin upper lip vermillion (the redder part).

The bad news: (1) the fetus is most susceptible to alcohol damage early in pregnancy, often before you know that you are pregnant, and (2) no amount of alcohol is a safe amount to drink. The more you drink the worse the effects, but the damage starts with the first beer.

The good news: you can totally prevent fetal alcohol syndrome by not drinking during pregnancy AND any time you are not pregnant but sexually active. This is the big obstacle to preventing FAS, since it means that most women of child-bearing age have to avoid drinking any alcoholic drinks.

Adults need to make a conscious decision to avoid drinking, knowing that severe consequences can follow if they do. FAS is one severe consequence, along with others such as DUI, liver damage, risk of alcoholism, and many others that can be the result of temporarily poor judgment associated with alcohol.

As with sugar drinks (which also should be avoided for life), there are many alternatives to alcoholic beverages which can fill the role of the "social drink". For example, there are several non-alcoholic beer products, as well as many sugar-free alcohol-free beverages of all kinds.

Tell Your Pediatrician

If you do find that you are pregnant and had been drinking any alcoholic beverages in the last few months, stop right away! Then tell your pediatrician so that he or she can be extra alert to watch for the signs of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, or any of the minor signs of brain damage such as behavior problems or ADHD that are part of the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Spectrum Disorders. That way, early intervention can help the child to adapt better to the disability.


© Rick Voakes 1999, Health-bytes LOGO  by Rie Cramer