Fetal Alcohol Syndrome


Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

In one week 10,000 babies are born in Canada. Twenty are born with Fetal Alcohol syndrome (FAS). One hundred with other alcohol related birth defects. FAS is most often described as the leading cause of mental retardation. FAS is not genetic or inherited and is %100 preventable.

Fetal Alcohol syndrome refers to a constellation of physical and mental birth defects that may develop in individuals whose mothers consumed alcohol during pregnancy. It is an organic disease that is characterized by central nervous system involvement, growth retardation, and characteristic facial features. Prenatal alcohol exposure also causes malformation of major organs including heart, kidneys, and liver. Fetal Alcohol Effect is very similar to FAS, with the same range of neurological problem but with out the characteristic facial features. FAE occurs two to three times more frequently the FAS.

Characteristics of children with FAS include:

Text Book Characteristics Justin

Low birth weight 5lbs 6 ounce full term

Small head circumference Undetermined

Failure to thrive Small for age

Developmental delay Delay in gross motor and speech

Organ dysfunction So signs of organ dysfunction

Epilepsy No signs of epilepsy

Poor coordination/fine motor skills Delay in gross motor and speech

Poor socialization skills, such as difficulty building and maintaining friendships and relating to groups Despite poor communication skills Justin was very sociable and affectionate with Joanne and myself.

Lack of imagination or curiosity Very curios of new toys.

Learning difficulties, including poor memory, and inability to understand concepts such as time and money Unable to determine at 10 months of age.

Facial abnormalities, including smaller eye openings, flattened cheekbones, and indistinct philtrum. Smaller eye openings noted

Behavioral problems, including hyperactivity, inability to concentrate, social withdrawal, stubbornness, impulsiveness, and anxiety. Arching of back noted when upset.

Poor language comprehension, poor problem-solving skill Unable to determine at 10 months of age

Alcohol is a teratogen, meaning that it is a substance that can damage and disrupt the developing embryo or fetus. The brain and the central nervous system of the unborn child are particularly vulnerable to prenatal alcohol exposure. Alcohol is lipid soluble like most other drugs and passes freely across the placental barrier and into the fetal bloodstream. In the fetus, the alcohol must be metabolized by the immature and poorly developed liver of the fetus. The alcohol stays in the fetus's body for a prolonged time even after leaving the mother's body. The unborn child remains intoxicated, possibly suffering withdrawal symptoms after the alcohol is no longer present.



Paul Szabo, M.P. March 2000, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, The Real Brain Drain. Ministry of Health, Ottawa, Ontario

Adele Pilliteri PhD, RN, PND, (1995). Maternal and Child Health Nursing. 2nd Ed, JB Lippincott Company Philadelphia.

Porth, C.M. (1998) Pathophysiology: Concepts of Altered Health States. (5th ed). New York: Lippincot.

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