Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

On any given day in the United States... 10,657 babies are born. (US Census

Bureau). Twenty of these babies are born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Twenty may
seem as though it is not a lot, but when you compare it to the fact that this
number is more than HIV positive, Muscular Dystrophy, Spina Bifida and Down

Syndrome combine it creates a whole new parameter. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is a
direct result of a womanís competed disregard for the fetus. Fetal Alcohol

Syndrome (FAS, hereinafter), is a series of both mental and physical birth
defects that can include, but are not limited to, mental retardation,
deficiencies in growth, central nervous system dysfunction, behavioral
maladjustments, and craniofacial abnormalities. It is common knowledge not to
smoke or drink during pregnancy. Growth abnormalities can be significant and
also includes all three of the following respects of growth: weight, length and
head circumference. Most of the time the babyís growth abnormalities are so
severe they need to be hospitalized because of obvious failure to survive. A
baby with craniofacial abnormalities can be recognized by their eyes in that
they are small with exaggerated inner epicanthic folds. (Health Visitor Nov.

1981) The bridge of the nose is normally poorly developed. The ears are often
large and simple in form. (Midwives Chronicle and Nursing notes) At first, when
the baby is delivered, the affected infant shows signs of alcohol withdrawal;
with signs that are much similar to delirium tremens in adults. They are often
anxious, have a weak grasp, poor hand-to-eye coordination and consistent
difficulty in feeding and sucking. People can not blame the motherís for the
most part though. It is a common ignorance among the health care providers. Most
health care providers are untrained and unfamiliar with substance abuse issues
among pregnant women. FAS is widely misdiagnosed and or under diagnosed. Only
ten percent of medical schools require students to complete a course on the
proper diagnosis of individuals with alcohol and other drug addictions. Many
women do not receive proper pre-natal care, and a study performed by a National

Center for Health Statistics found that doctors appear less likely to tell a
pregnant black woman to quit drinking and or smoking than they would be to a
white woman. (The New York Times, January 19, 1994) As mentioned above, a baby
with FAS can suffer from many different birth abnormalities. These disabilities
will indeed last a lifetime. There is no amount of alcohol found to be safe to
consume during pregnancy. FAS is, however, 100% preventable when a woman
abstains from alcohol. FAS is the leading known cause of mental retardation.

Approximately, one out of 750 live birth are born each year with FAS. (The

Journal of American Medical Association, 1991) Thirty to 40% of the mothers who
drink "heavily" throughout pregnancy have the syndrome. FAS is not limited
to any one group, race, culture, or socio-economic background. Between one-third
and two-thirds of children in special education have been affected by alcohol in
some way. (The Journal of American Medical Association, 1991) Comparison of
children and adults with FAS shows that with the approach to adolescence, the
specific craniofacial features are not as noticeable as they are in infancy.

Average academic functioning of these children and adults does not seem to
develop beyond early school grade level. The short stature and small head (micro
cephalic), seem to be permanent. The most noticeable behavioral problems were
found to be with comprehension, judgment, and attention skills, causing these
adults born with FAS to experience major psychological and adjustment problems
for the rest of their lives. Numerous studies with animals, of experimental
alcoholism, where nutritional status has been well controlled, have shown that
the damage to the developing fetus, such as low birth rate CNS ( Central Nervous

System) impairment, etc. are caused by the direct consequence of the effects of
alcohol. In addition, some of these studies have shown a clear continuum effect;
the higher the blood alcohol of the mother, the greater the damage to the
developing fetus. Even though the direct connection between alcohol intake and
birth defects is now indisputable, there are other etiological factors
associated with maternal drinking that must also be considered as contributing
factors in an adverse pregnancy outcome. The most important of these secondary
factors is alcohol related malnutrition, as nutritional deficiencies occur
frequently with alcohol intake due to reduced appetite. Alcohol-induced zinc
depletion is particularly well documented. This has shown a positive correlation
with reduced zinc status and low birth weight and fetal malformations,
suggesting that inadequate zinc intake could also act independently as a
teratogenic agent. (Yearbook of Nutritional Medicine