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Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

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What can happen to a fetus when a pregnant women drinks heavily during her pregnancy?

It can lead to permanent, irreversible and incurable effects that will bring a lifetime of pain for

both the child and the family. These permanent and unchangeable effects arise from a fetus

attaining fetal alcohol syndrome from its mother. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is a pattern of

malformations and disabilities resulting from a pregnant woman drinking heavily during her

pregnancy. FAS is unique in that effects on the children are directly linked to maternal drinking

habits. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is currently the leading cause of mental retardation in the United

States. A baby with FAS can suffer from mental retardation, central nervous dysfunction, organ

dysfunction, facial abnormalities and many other effects. At least 5,000 to 10000 infants are born

each year in America with FAS. There is a little less then a 50% chance that the new born child,

whose mother drank heavily during pregnancy, will be born with FAS. Even if the child is not

born with FAS, there is a better then 50% chance that the child will have many Fetal Alcohol

Effects (FAE) from maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy (Berhow 364). Each infant

that is born with FAS is a large financial burden. The institutional and medical costs for one child

with FAS is an average of over a million dollars during the child's lifetime. Whatever the mother

drinks while she is pregnant, the child inside her is drinking. If the mother gets drunk from

consuming to much alcohol so will her child. A mother's high risk behavior during pregnancy

effects the child more then it might effect her. But FAS is a syndrome that is 100% preventable.

The only way to prevent FAS is for a pregnant woman to abstain from drinking alcohol during her

entire pregnancy.

"In a broad sense FAS may be viewed as a repercussion of an external environmental

influence on the internal physiological environment of the developing fetus" (Caleekal). What a

mother does to herself externally has an immediate impact on the fetus which lies inside her. If a

pregnant woman drinks wine, beer, or any liquor when she is pregnant, her baby could develop

FAS, its that simple. The disabilities which stem from FAS will last a lifetime. No amount of

alcohol has been proven safe to consume during pregnancy. Heavy drinking on a consistent basis

or binge drinking on an occasional basis can produce FAS. A combination of factors determines

whether the exposed child will be afflicted with FAS. "FAS is not necessarily the result of only

full-blown alcoholism but rather it can result from drinking any amount of alcohol in excess of the

level to detoxify it thus placing the fetus at risk" (Caleekal). A mother's nutritional status and

physical well-being might also play roles of varying significance in determining whether an infant

is affected, and to what degree, by the prenatal exposure to alcohol (Berhow 364). The most

common effects seen is an increase in miscarriages. Babies can also be born at a low birth weight,

birth length, and with a small heads resulting from prenatal alcohol exposure. There are many

different factors that can produce birth defects from FAS. Agent (alcohol, crack, heroin) Dosage

(how much is used), Timing of Exposure (when is it used?), individual factors of mother and

child, genetic factors, nutritional factors, metabolic factors are what birth defects are dependent

on (Berhow 364).

FAS is characterized by three symptoms which affect different areas. The three areas

affected are; prenatal and/or postnatal growth retardation, Central Nervous System (CNS) and

head and facial abnormalities (Wynbrandt 208). With prenatal and postnatal growth retardation,

infants are born weighing less the average newborn and are shorter in length. The central nervous

system is composed of the brain and spinal cord. The nervous system develops in the first 8

weeks of child birth, making the most damaging effects result in this period. Damage to this area

is displayed through mental retardation and severe learning disabilities. Head and facial

abnormalities, facial deformities such as a thin upper lip, absence of a groove between the nose

and upper lip and small eye openings. The teeth of individuals with FAS are often misshapen and

misplaced. Children with FAS are short and thin, with unusually small heads. They grow slowly

and their appetite is poor. Many also have malformed hearts, kidneys, and urinary tracts, poor

muscle tone or joint articulation, abnormal curvature of the spine, limited hip motion,



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