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Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder – The Facts

Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder – The Facts

Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is an umbrella term for a collection of different conditions that may present in a child, as a result of alcohol exposure during the mother’s pregnancy. These diagnoses include:

  • Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)
  • Partial Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (PFAS)
  • Alcohol Related Neuro-developmental Disorder (ARND)
  • Alcohol Related Birth Defects (ARBD)

The reason it is known as a spectrum disorder is because the condition incorporates a wide range of lifelong disabilities, which can vary in severity from person to person. FASD cannot be reversed, and there is no specific treatment for the condition, although there are a number of intervention services available which can help those suffering from it to cope with their everyday challenges.

Individuals with FASD present a range of difficulties, including problems with:

  • Physical health
  • Motor skills
  • Emotional regulation
  • Social skills
  • Memory and learning
  • Attention

These challenges, again, differ wildly from individual to individual, and are often mistaken for learning disabilities or other forms of disability such as Autism or ADHD.

 

What Are The Symptoms Of FASD?

Symptoms of FASD vary from child to child, with some experiencing a wider span of problems, whilst others may have fewer issues but the ones that they do have present far more prominently. Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is characterised by a mix of traits which include physical defects, cognitive disabilities and problems functioning in day-to-day life and in their interactions with others.

 

Physical Defects

Physical defects can include:

  • Distinctive facial features with small eyes; a very thin upper lip; small, upturned nose and a smooth skin surface between the nose and upper lip
  • Slow physical growth both during the mother’s pregnancy and after birth, and stunted height in adulthood
  • Deformities in the limbs and fingers
  • Bad eyesight and hearing problems
  • Small head and brain
  • Heart defects and problems with the bones and kidneys

 Brain And Central Nervous System Issues

Problems with the brain and central nervous system can include:

  • Lack of balance and coordination
  • Poor memory
  • Problems with paying attention and processing information
  • Intellectual disability and delayed development
  • Learning disabilities
  • Poor judgement/not understanding consequences
  • Poor reasoning and problem solving
  • Hyperactivity
  • Mood swings

Behavioural Issues

Problems with functioning and interacting with others can include:

  • Poor social skills
  • Difficulty getting on with their peers
  • Poor impulse control
  • Bad behaviour
  • Inability to adapt comfortably to change
  • Poor timekeeping
  • Difficulty staying on-task

 

What Causes FASD?

The only real known cause of FASD is drinking alcohol whilst pregnant. In fact, according to the IOM report in 1996, alcohol use during pregnancy produces the most serious and damaging effects to the foetus of all substances, including cocaine and heroin.

When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, the alcohol enters her bloodstream and crosses the placenta to reach the foetus in minutes. Foetuses metabolise alcohol more slowly than an adult, meaning that the child’s blood alcohol concentration is much higher than that of the mother. This is why many doctors will argue that it is not safe to drink any amount of alcohol whatsoever when you are pregnant; even if you don’t feel drunk at all, the alcohol in the blood of your developing baby could already be harming it.

Alcohol interferes with the delivery of oxygen, minerals and other nutrients to your baby, thus suppressing the development of its major organs and tissues. The more alcohol you drink, the more risk there is to the child, and there is still a risk with any amount of alcohol.

The first trimester is a key stage of development for the facial features, organs and central nervous system, and because a baby’s heart, brain and blood vessels start to develop in the earliest weeks of pregnancy, serious damage could be done before you even know that you are pregnant.

 

Prevention Of FASD

Although the advice tends to change according to who you speak to, most doctors will agree that the safest way to ensure that your unborn child is not at risk of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is to abstain from alcohol entirely for the duration of your pregnancy.

Some basic guidelines to stick to include:

  • Go sober if you are trying for a baby. As mentioned earlier, much of a foetus’s development is done during the very earliest stages of pregnancy, and many women don’t even realise that they are pregnant during the first weeks. If you are actively trying to get pregnant, it makes sense to stop drinking sooner rather than later.
  • Avoid alcohol throughout your entire pregnancy. Whilst some doctors will say that you can have a small amount of alcohol, the easiest way to ensure that you aren’t putting your child at risk is to stay sober.
  • Get help for an alcohol addiction before you consider trying for a child. Don’t expect that getting pregnant will give you the boost that you need to quit drinking. Getting clean and sober should be your priority so that you can then focus on getting pregnant and maintaining a healthy pregnancy.

 

How Can Cassiobury Court Help?

If you are thinking of getting pregnant and are worried about how much you drink, Cassiobury Court can help you to get sober. We will be able to assess you to find out how much of a dependence on alcohol you have, in order to come up with a treatment and rehabilitation plan that will work for you in the long run.

Our luxurious rehabilitation centre is the ideal place to detox from alcohol and learn new behaviours and coping methods that should help you to beat your reliance on alcohol. Not only will this help you to beat your addiction for good, but it can also help to make you feel stronger and more prepared to be a parent.

At Cassiobury Court you will take part in group and family therapy, as well as individual sessions, to help you to get the backing of your loved ones and feel truly ready to make a commitment to having your own family and turning your back on alcohol for good. We even offer 12 month’s free aftercare, with 24 hour support on hand to provide you with the backup you need if you feel your resistance faltering.

If you want to know more, we can be reached on 01923 369161 or you can text HELP to 83222.

John Gillen

A recovering addict himself, John is now one of the UK's leading professionals in the addiction recovery industry. Through our blog, he keeps our website visitors in the loop with the latest news and industry trends in relation to addiction treatment.