Effects of Alcohol Abuse During Pregnancy
Woman who drink alcohol during pregnancy expose their unborn child to similar BAC levels because it easily crosses the placenta through the blood. Likewise, if a mother suddenly abstains from alcohol use, both she and her fetus may suffer withdrawals.
Birth defects involving a number of physical and psychological health problems are well documented effects of alcohol abuse during pregnancy, but, many consequences these children suffer are never known or linked back to these conditions.
Many women may be unaware that they are pregnant until they have a miscarriage. Binge drinking or experiencing alcohol withdrawals during the first trimester can be detrimental to the fetus causing spontaneous abortion when nonviability occurs.
Most women will cut back or stop drinking when they realize that they are pregnant, but, there is no sure way to gage the impact of alcohol abuse on the gestation of the fetus and sometimes, premature labor is unavoidable.
Continued alcohol abuse during pregnancy increases the distress on both the mother and fetus and can result in life threatening circumstances requiring premature inducement of labor.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
High BAC in the fetus can destroy nerve cells in the developing brain and lead to impaired neurotransmissions, vital functioning mechanisms, developments of organs and systems, and growth potential.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is characterized by growth deficiencies before and after birth, abnormal and distinctive facial features, and central nervous system (CNS) disorders including; developmental delays, cognitive deficits, structural abnormalities, and behavioral impairments.
Facts about FAS:
- There is no simple laboratory test to detect FAS and treatment options are limited.
- The minimum rate of children born with FAS is estimated to be 0.31 percent.
- FAS may be the most common preventable cause of mental retardation in children.
- Facial abnormalities may become indistinguishable after puberty, but other deficits last a lifetime and may become worse as the child grows and develops.
- Children with FAS are often hyperactive or have attention deficit disorders.
Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE)
Many children are never diagnosed with FAS because they do not fully develop all aspects of the syndrome although they were exposed to alcohol in utero and show abnormalities at birth. The term for their condition is fetal alcohol effects (FAE) and like those children born with FAS, they are at a high risk of having neurological, developmental, and behavioral disorders.
Behavioral, learning, social, and emotional problems tend to become more prevalent as the child grows and they may also present impaired motors skills. These conditions may or may not be linked back to the mother’s alcohol abuse during pregnancy which increases the probability that the number of affected children may be underestimated.