On any given day in the United States..
. 10, 657 babies are born. (US CensusBureau). Twenty of these babies are born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Twenty mayseem as though it is not a lot, but when you compare it to the fact that thisnumber is more than HIV positive, Muscular Dystrophy, Spina Bifida and DownSyndrome combine it creates a whole new parameter. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is adirect result of a womans competed disregard for the fetus.
Fetal AlcoholSyndrome (FAS, hereinafter), is a series of both mental and physical birthdefects that can include, but are not limited to, mental retardation, deficiencies in growth, central nervous system dysfunction, behavioralmaladjustments, and craniofacial abnormalities. It is common knowledge not tosmoke or drink during pregnancy. Growth abnormalities can be significant andalso includes all three of the following respects of growth: weight, length andhead circumference. Most of the time the babys growth abnormalities are sosevere they need to be hospitalized because of obvious failure to survive.
Ababy with craniofacial abnormalities can be recognized by their eyes in thatthey are small with exaggerated inner epicanthic folds. (Health Visitor Nov. 1981) The bridge of the nose is normally poorly developed. The ears are oftenlarge and simple in form. (Midwives Chronicle and Nursing notes) At first, whenthe baby is delivered, the affected infant shows signs of alcohol withdrawal; with signs that are much similar to delirium tremens in adults. They are oftenanxious, have a weak grasp, poor hand-to-eye coordination and consistentdifficulty in feeding and sucking.
People can not blame the mothers for themost part though. It is a common ignorance among the health care providers. Mosthealth care providers are untrained and unfamiliar with substance abuse issuesamong pregnant women. FAS is widely misdiagnosed and or under diagnosed.
Onlyten percent of medical schools require students to complete a course on theproper diagnosis of individuals with alcohol and other drug addictions. Manywomen do not receive proper pre-natal care, and a study performed by a NationalCenter for Health Statistics found that doctors appear less likely to tell apregnant black woman to quit drinking and or smoking than they would be to awhite woman. (The New York Times, January 19, 1994) As mentioned above, a babywith FAS can suffer from many different birth abnormalities. These disabilitieswill indeed last a lifetime. There is no amount of alcohol found to be safe toconsume during pregnancy.
FAS is, however, 100% preventable when a womanabstains from alcohol. FAS is the leading known cause of mental retardation. Approximately, one out of 750 live birth are born each year with FAS. (TheJournal of American Medical Association, 1991) Thirty to 40% of the mothers whodrink “ heavily” throughout pregnancy have the syndrome.
FAS is not limitedto any one group, race, culture, or socio-economic background. Between one-thirdand two-thirds of children in special education have been affected by alcohol insome way. (The Journal of American Medical Association, 1991) Comparison ofchildren and adults with FAS shows that with the approach to adolescence, thespecific craniofacial features are not as noticeable as they are in infancy. Average academic functioning of these children and adults does not seem todevelop beyond early school grade level.
The short stature and small head (microcephalic), seem to be permanent. The most noticeable behavioral problems werefound to be with comprehension, judgment, and attention skills, causing theseadults born with FAS to experience major psychological and adjustment problemsfor the rest of their lives. Numerous studies with animals, of experimentalalcoholism, where nutritional status has been well controlled, have shown thatthe damage to the developing fetus, such as low birth rate CNS ( Central NervousSystem) impairment, etc. are caused by the direct consequence of the effects ofalcohol. 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 thedeveloping fetus. Even though the direct connection between alcohol intake andbirth defects is now indisputable, there are other etiological factorsassociated with maternal drinking that must also be considered as contributingfactors in an adverse pregnancy outcome. The most important of these secondaryfactors is alcohol related malnutrition, as nutritional deficiencies occurfrequently with alcohol intake due to reduced appetite.
Alcohol-induced zincdepletion is particularly well documented. This has shown a positive correlationwith reduced zinc status and low birth weight and fetal malformations, suggesting that inadequate zinc