Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders 

Dr. David Prescott – Eastern Maine Medical Center Behavioral MedicineFetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders: No Amount of Alcohol is Known to Be Safe During Pregnancy: Disorders caused by alcohol use during pregnancy are termed fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Fetal alcohol syndrome is one specific type of disorder caused by alcohol use during pregnancy. Children exposed to alcohol during pregnancy may also experience learning disabilities, emotional difficulties, and physical disabilities that do not technically qualify for fetal alcohol syndrome. The exact effects of alcohol use during pregnancy appear to be somewhat difficult to predict, beyond knowing that any alcohol use puts the unborn child at risk. No amount of alcohol has been determined to be safe during pregnancy. How Common Are Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders? Many women do not know when they are first pregnant, or may use alcohol because they do not fully understand its potential impact. Statistics about fetal alcohol spectrum disorders include: · Over 40,000 children are born in the United States each year.· Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are more common than autism spectrum disorders. · More than 1 out of 10 pregnant women report using alcohol in the last month. Is Alcohol Really That Harmful to an Unborn Child? Alcohol impacts the neural and physical development of a child. According to the Institute of Medicine: “Of all the substances of abuse (including cocaine, heroin, and marijuana), alcohol produces by far the most serious neurobehavioral effects in the fetus.What Are Possible Signs of Fetal Alcohol Syndromes? As difficult as it may be to discuss the possibility that a child has a fetal alcohol syndrome, identifying this early offers the best chance to minimize the effects. Possible signs of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders in infants include: · Sleeping, breathing, or feeding problems.· Small head, facial, or dental irregularities· Deformities of joints, limbs, and fingersPossible effects of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders in children include: · Overly sensitive to bright lights, sound, or textures of clothing. · Balance and motor problems (“clumsy”)· Have trouble following multi-step directions. · Difficulty with reading, numbers, letters. Is There a Treatment for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorders? · Prevention: The only sure way to treat fetal alcohol syndrome disorders is through prevention. Physicians who provide prenatal care are learning that routinely asking about alcohol use during pregnancy, and brief interventions to encourage women to stop using alcohol have a significant effect. · Early Recognition: If a child was exposed to alcohol during pregnancy, the earlier that fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are recognized, the better chance of minimizing its negative effects. · Focus on Strengths: Children with fetal alcohol syndromes are often friendly and cheerful, like to be helpful, and are often very determined. These strengths can be used to offset areas where life is a challenge. · Support for the Family: Having a child with fetal alcohol syndrome is stressful. When families are able to remain intact in spite of the stress, the chances that fetal alcohol syndrome will significantly disrupt the life of the child are greatly reduced. For More Information: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Center for Excellence: Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) :