Pregnancy is a transformative period. As you nurture a new life, your decisions can have lasting effects on your growing child’s well-being. One such choice is drinking during pregnancy, which can lead to a range of issues collectively known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
The Science Behind Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
Alcohol is a teratogen, which means it can cause abnormalities in a developing child. When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, it easily passes through the placenta to the fetus, who metabolizes it at a much slower rate. This phenomenon results in exposing the fetus to higher concentrations of alcohol for more extended periods than the mother, disrupting vital developmental processes.
Alcohol’s effects on a growing fetus include the following.
- Physical deficiencies: Children with FASD can display distinct facial abnormalities such as a smooth philtrum (the area between the upper lip and nose), thin upper lip and small eyes. They may also have growth problems before or after birth.
- Neurological impairments: The brain is one of the primary targets of alcohol’s damaging effects. It can cause structural abnormalities in the brain, leading to cognitive impairments, learning disabilities and behavioral disorders.
- Organ damage: FASD can impact the heart, kidneys and bones, resulting in congenital disabilities and other long-term health issues.
The Spectrum of Disorders
FASD is not a singular disorder, but a range of conditions caused by prenatal alcohol exposure.
- Fetal alcohol syndrome: With this most severe form of FASD, children display the various physical and mental symptoms mentioned earlier.
- Partial fetal alcohol syndrome: As the name suggests, children with pFAS might have some, but not all, the symptoms associated with FAS.
- Alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder: Children with ARND primarily show neurological symptoms, including learning disabilities, poor impulse control and attention deficits.
- Alcohol-related birth defects: This category refers to physical defects in children exposed to alcohol prenatally, including issues related to the heart, kidneys or bones.
Often, children with FASD require a lifetime of support. They can face academic challenges, mental health disorders, legal troubles and difficulty managing daily life activities. Furthermore, they may also experience a host of secondary conditions such as substance abuse problems, employment challenges and interpersonal issues.
Understanding the Impact of Alcohol During Pregnancy
While some people believe occasional or light drinking while pregnant is safe, no amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy. By staying informed and sober, you can ensure a healthier future for your children.
At Canyon Crossing, we understand the challenges women face, especially related to substance abuse and mental health. If you are pregnant or hoping to become pregnant and need help to stop drinking, please reach out for support. Our dedicated team is here to provide guidance, understanding and coping skills so you can move through life gracefully.