Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, or FASD, is the condition that describes what happens to a child whose mother who drank alcohol during the pregnancy. The effects of this can be long term and plenty of things can show up as an effect of it. It includes things like physical, behavioral, mental and/or learning disabilities that show up in the child. Sometimes these things are temporary and other times they are life long effects.
Some of the common effects that you will see include:
- abnormal facial features
- slowness of growth
- central nervous system problems
How this happens is that pregnant women drink alcohol when they should not be, since they are pregnant. By doing this, they pass the alcohol along to their unborn babies through the blood stream. The end result of this behavior is physical and mental disabilities that are collectively known as FASD.
The numbers are not available when it comes to the prevalence of FASD in the United States. However, it is known that FASD seems to occur more often in certain tribes of Native Americans and Alaska natives. The important take away here is that any time a pregnant women drinks alcohol, she is increasing the risk of FASD with the child that she is carrying.
Doctors can diagnose FASD with the following criteria:
- Growth deficiency in height and/or weight either prenatally or postnatally.
- Specific pattern of facial anomalies: short eye slits, smooth or indistinct philtrum (the ridges running vertically between the nose and lips) and a thin upper lip.
- Some brain damage to the central nervous system demonstrated through microcephaly (small size of the brain), tremors, hyperactivity, fine or gross motor problems, attention deficits, learning disabilities, intellectual impairments and possible intellectual disability.
- Evidence of alcohol use by the birth mother during pregnancy (however, some diagnoses are made without this criteria).
If this diagnosis is given, know that there is no cure and that it does usually get worse with age. That being said, early identification is better for the child so that they can get help to live up to their potential.