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Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

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What is FAS/FASD?

Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a set of physical and mental birth defects that can result when a woman drinks alcohol during her pregnancy. When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, such as beer, wine, or mixed drinks, so does her baby. Alcohol passes through the placenta right into the developing baby. The baby may suffer lifelong damage as a result.

FAS is characterized by brain damage, facial deformities, and growth deficits. Heart, liver, and kidney defects also are common, as well as vision and hearing problems. Individuals with FAS have difficulties with learning, attention, memory, and problem solving.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) is an umbrella term describing the range of effects that can occur in an individual whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. These effects may include physical, mental, behavioral, and/or learning disabilities with possible lifelong implications. The term FASD is not intended for use as a clinical diagnosis.

FASD covers other terms such as:

Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) - the only diagnosis given by doctors.

Alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND) - reserved for individuals with functional or cognitive impairments linked to prenatal alcohol exposure, including decreased head size at birth, structural brain abnormalities, and a pattern of behavioral and mental abnormalities

Alcohol-related birth defects (ARBD) - describes the physical defects linked to prenatal alcohol exposure, including heart, skeletal, kidney, ear, and eye malformations

Fetal alcohol effects (FAE) - a term that has been popularly used to describe alcohol-exposed individuals whose condition does not meet the full criteria for an FAS diagnosis

What are the Statistics and Facts about FAS and FASD?

FASD is the leading known preventable cause of mental retardation and birth defects.

FASD affects 1 in 100 live births or as many as 40,000 infants each year.

An individual with fetal alcohol syndrome can incur a lifetime health cost of over $800,000.

In 2003, fetal alcohol syndrome cost the United States $5.4 billiondirect costs were $3.9 billion, while indirect costs added another $1.5 billion.

Children do not outgrow FASD. The physical and behavioral problems can last for a lifetime.

FAS and FASD are found in all racial and socio-economic groups.

FAS and FASD are not genetic disorders. Women with FAS or affected by FASD have healthy babies if they do not drink alcohol during their pregnancy.

Can I drink alcohol when I am pregnant?

No. Do not drink alcohol when you are pregnant. When you drink alcohol, such as beer, wine, or mixed drinks, so does your baby. Alcohol is a substance known to be harmful to human development. When it reaches the blood supply of the baby, it can cause permanent defects to the major organs and central nervous system.

Is there any kind of alcohol that is safe to drink during pregnancy?

No. Drinking any kind of alcohol can hurt your baby. Alcoholic drinks can include beer, wine, liquor, wine coolers, or mixed drinks.

What if I am pregnant and have been drinking?

If you drank alcohol before you knew you were pregnant, stop drinking now. Anytime a pregnant woman stops drinking, she decreases the risk of harm to the baby. If you are trying to get pregnant, do not drink alcohol. You may not know you are pregnant right away.

What if I drank during my last pregnancy and my baby was fine?

Every pregnancy is different. Drinking alcohol may hurt one baby more than another. You could have one child that is born healthy and another child that is born with problems.

What if a friend, partner, spouse or family member is drinking while pregnant?

Many women are unaware of the consequences of drinking during pregnancy. Some women believe wine or beer is not alcohol. In many cases, she may be suffering from alcoholism. She may need to know what effects alcohol can have on the baby. She also may need help getting into treatment. In such cases, you should contact a treatment professional at a local addiction center for advice on how to help.

Copyright 2001-2004 National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

An individual's place, and success, in society is almost entirely determined by neurological functioning. A neurologically injured child is unable to meet the expectations of parents, family, peers, school, career and can endure a lifetime of failures. The largest cause of neurological damage in children is prenatal exposure to alcohol. These children grow up to become adults. Often the neurological damage goes undiagnosed, but not unpunished.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE), Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (pFAS), Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorders (ARND), Static Encephalopathy (alcohol exposed) (SE) and Alcohol Related Birth Defects (ARBD) are all names for a spectrum of disorders caused when a pregnant woman consumes alcohol.

There are strategies that can work to help the child with an FASD compensate for some difficulties. Early and intensive intervention and tutoring can do wonders, but the need for a supportive structure is permanent.

Studies on addiction in Ontario have shown about a 10 - 12% alcohol addiction rate among adults, with another 20% drinking to a level that places them at high risk.

Legally intoxicated is defined as a Blood Alcohol Level of .08%. A 100 lb (45 kg) female consuming 5 standard drinks (A drink equals a 12 oz. regular beer, 1 oz. shot of 100 proof liquor, 1.5 oz. shot of 80 proof liquor, or 4 oz. glass of regular table wine) will reach a BAL of .25% - three times the legal limit. BAL reduces .01% per hour.

The Statistics Canada, Canadian Community Health Survey, 2000/01 found that:

6.8% of girls ages 12 to 14

19.8% of girls age 12 to 19

26.0% ages 20 to 24

19.9% ages 20 to 34 consumed 5 or more drinks on each occasion 12 or more times per year




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