FOETAL alcohol syndrome is a group of symptoms that appear in children whose mother drank alcohol while they were pregnant. These symptoms are birth defects that can be detected either early in life or manifest themselves later in the life of the affected child. The most obvious sign of foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a condition detected during pregnancy known as Intrauterine Growth Retardation (IUGR),
This is when the foetus grows at a slower rate than expected for gestational age. This is a condition that children are born with that is 100 percent preventable. The debate on how safe alcohol is during pregnancy is still going on. The safest way to prevent this syndrome is to stop drinking alcohol during the duration of the pregnancy. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy is not seen as taboo in countries where alcohol forms part of the eating culture, but there is a fine line between alcohol use and alcohol abuse. The general rule followed by physicians is that NO alcohol is safe during pregnancy.
Foetal alcohol syndrome does not only affect the child at birth and during childhood, but depending on the severity of the symptoms foetal alcohol syndrome follow through to the childrenâ€™s adult life. The symptoms are caused mainly as a result of the foetusâ€™ inability to breakdown what enters their body from the motherâ€™s blood through the placenta.
As mentioned before, the most common symptom of foetal alcohol syndrome is retarded intrauterine growth, therefore children are usually born with a lower than expected birth weight. This in itself can lead to various health problems for the new born baby. Other symptoms of foetal alcohol syndrome include; small eyes with drooping upper lids, flattened cheeks, small jaw, thin upper lip, flattened philtrum (the groove in the middle of the upper lip), delayed motor skills (rolling over, sitting up, grasping objects, crawling and walking), delayed language development (children with Foetal alcohol syndrome start using language later than average children).
Later in life, children with foetal alcohol have been known to have learning problems, attention disorders, depression and psychotic episodes, some even have convulsive disorders. These children are more susceptible to developing dependency on drugs and/or alcohol. As they get older, children born with foetal alcohol syndrome have difficulties maintaining intimate relationships and keeping jobs, if they do not receive the right kind of therapy.
Diagnosis of foetal alcohol syndrome may happen late in childhood, unless the motherâ€™s health provider suspects there might be a problem with the infant and monitors the child carefully after birth. Some children only develop mild symptoms, while others end up with severe and in some cases life threatening symptoms.
If you are pregnant, do not drink alcohol. If you feel you cannot stop drinking alcohol, speak to your health care provider about getting help to reduce and eventually stop the amount of alcohol that you drink. If you suspect that a child may have foetal alcohol syndrome approach a paediatrician at your local hospital and request testing.
Remember Foetal Alcohol Syndrome is percent preventable.
For more information on Foetal Alcohol Syndrome email 990health@champ. org.zm