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Fetal alcohol syndrome

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Fetal alcohol syndrome is caused when mothers drink alcohol when pregnant with their child, causing symptoms that will last the rest of the child’s life. The symptoms can be severe or mild, and cases of fetal alcohol syndrome differ greatly. One statistics states that 1 out of every 750 babies born in the United States suffers from one or more of the fetal alcohol syndrome symptoms. Having a child diagnosed early is very important and can help minimize the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome. The symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome tend to grow as children become adults, so early treatment can help reduce the lasting effects of the syndrome. The amount of alcohol that causes fetal alcohol syndrome is unknown at this time due to the fact that each person’s body reacts differently to alcohol.[1]


Mothers drinking alcohol

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is caused when a mother drinks while pregnant with their child. The mother should not drink at any point in the pregnancy because the amount of alcohol that causes fetal alcohol syndrome is unknown. It varies for each pregnancy and the cases vary greatly in the effects of the syndrome. The best prevention for fetal alcohol syndrome is to avoid alcohol while pregnant and even when one thinks that they might be pregnant.[2] Drinking at any time during a pregnancy can cause fetal alcohol syndrome. However, mothers who drink heavily during the first trimester can cause the most harm to their babies. The first trimester is when the brain first begins to develop. Alcohol disrupts the proper formation of the brain, causing symptoms for fetal alcohol syndrome. Mothers that drink only slightly during pregnancy might miss the full effects of fetal alcohol syndrome, but some side effects of the syndrome might still be present in the child. Some mothers might feel comfortable later in pregnancies drinking alcohol, but this can cause damage to the brain as well as the nervous system.[1]

The best method for prevention is to give up alcohol if one is looking to have a child or if a woman thinks that she could possibly get pregnant. If a woman struggles with alcohol addiction, especially during or around childbearing, she should seek counseling in order to prevent future symptoms in her child. Unfortunately, fetal alcohol syndrome is a common disorder, but the severity varies. Some children might show many symptoms of the syndrome, while other children might show only a few. If alcohol is consumed by the mother, alcohol enters the developing baby by crossing the placenta. Alcohol disrupts important nutrients as well as oxygen from reaching the baby. This interference is when some of the symptoms begin to develop in the child.[3]

Symptoms and Complications

Heart complications caused by fetal alcohol syndrome
Face deformities that are caused by fetal alcohol syndrome

There are many symptoms associated with fetal alcohol syndrome. Some of the symptoms are more severe than others, but they can all be avoided if a mother stays away from alcohol when pregnant. One issue faced by babies with fetal alcohol syndrome is impaired growth. The alcohol causes the baby’s bones and features to grow differently than a baby without the syndrome. Another symptom is less muscle tone and poor coordination. These characteristics are very important for the development of the baby, and without them, complications arise. Fetal alcohol syndrome also affects many brain activities that are vital for the child’s development. The syndrome can cause problems with motor skills such as speaking and thinking. These setbacks could have easily been avoided and the child spared the trouble of going through therapy and treatment to help and correct these important functions for life.

The syndrome can also cause problems in the heart as well as in hearing. Issues with the heart are very concerning for obvious reasons. Heart defects might not be known immediately, but people can suffer from them later in life. More symptoms include abnormal facial features that are a distinguishing mark of fetal alcohol syndrome patients. There are also some complications that may be experienced before birth. Alcohol may cause premature birth and result in an undersized child. Also, the mother runs the risk of miscarriage or still birth if alcohol is consumed during pregnancy. People with fetal alcohol syndrome might only have several of the symptoms listed above, but all of them can be avoided by the mother.[4]


There is no cure for fetal alcohol syndrome or the many symptoms that it includes. However, the effects of the syndrome can be reduced if noticed at an early age and help is provided for the child. Individual training can greatly improve motor skills and help prepare the child for school. The individual training can help reduce and possibly mask the symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome. [5] Treatment for fetal alcohol syndrome can be challenging because each case is slightly different, bringing its own unique obstacles. People with fetal alcohol syndrome can face any combination of the following in differing severity: Physical or intellectual disabilities, or issues with behavior and learning. The ideal age to aid children with basic skills is between birth and 3 years. The basic skills that therapy can help with are speech, walking, and social interactions. Children who have been diagnosed at an early age, become involved with therapy and special education, grow up in a loving home, and live without violence limit the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome. Growing up in a loving and stable home is very important for children with fetal alcohol syndrome. One symptom of fetal alcohol syndrome can be sensitivity to change or disruptions. These treatment methods can help prevent secondary conditions of fetal alcohol syndrome and minimize the effects of the syndrome.

There are no medications at this time to specifically treat fetal alcohol syndrome; however, there are several medications that can help aid some of the effects of the syndrome. Stimulants can sometimes be used to help with fetal alcohol syndrome to help those who suffer from hyperactivity or have difficulty paying attention. Antidepressants are sometimes prescribed for those who deal with sadness and other issues. Neuroleptics aid those who have troubles with aggression and several others behavioral problems. Medications work differently for every individual that takes them and might not work for everyone with fetal alcohol syndrome. There are several more therapies that could be effective for dealing with some of the symptoms. Helping children with the skills to make friends can be very beneficial and reduce behavioral problems. However, parents with children that have fetal alcohol syndrome should also take some training so they can help their children more effectively. Some techniques for parents to follow are to be structured and consistent. Constant life changes do not help children with fetal alcohol syndrome. However, every case is different and parents must know the symptoms that their child has. There are also a couple of other methods that have not been tested very deeply, but might also aid with the symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome. Some of these ways include yoga, exercise, vitamins, massage, and animal-assisted therapy. Not everyone with fetal alcohol syndrome will respond positively to each different kind of treatment. However, with the many treatment options, a positive treatment can be found that caters to a certain symptom.[6]

There are different symptoms for the different age groups in life. As a child, people with fetal alcohol syndrome might have trouble sleeping, constant ear infections, and trouble maintaining a healthy weight. Seeking the help of a nutritionist can help with providing the right amount of nutrition in order to keep a healthy weight. Toddlers with fetal alcohol syndrome will sometimes have dental troubles as well as eating problems. One way to handle eating problems is to serve smaller portions and limit distractions that take focus off eating. Moving towards school and teenage years, some obstacles might include attention problems, frustration, and other behavioral issues. There can also be struggles faced in adulthood. If fetal alcohol causes mental health issues, holding a job as an adult can be more difficult and managing their money might also be a challenge. Some adults that have fetal alcohol syndrome need close family members to help them with financial matters and manage their money for them. Again, structure and activities are very important to help dealing with fetal alcohol syndrome.[7]



  1. 1.0 1.1 Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Kids Health. Web. January 14, 2014 (Accessed). Author Unknown
  2. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. Web. September 22, 2011 (update). Author Unknown.
  3. Mayo Clinic staff Fetal alcohol syndrome. Mayo Clinic. Web. July 13, 2013 (update).
  4. Fetal alcohol syndrome.Medline Plus. Web. October 31, 2013 (update). Author Unknown.
  5. FASD Treatment. The Arc. Web. December 18, 2013 (Access). Author Unknown.
  6. Treatments. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. Web. September 22, 2011 (update). Author Unknown.
  7. Living with FASD. No F.A.S.. Web. January 14, 2014 (Accessed). Author Unknown

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