Effects of Alcohol and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

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Effects of Alcohol and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

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Alcohol plays a major role in society today. It is constantly being in our minds through advertisements, whether its commercials or

billboards, holidays, or even just at the popular social scene. Alcohol is

consumed for many purposes, such as celebrations, to increase romance, out of

boredom, or a way to relax. Alcohol is a drug that is depended upon by the

majority of our society. Nonetheless, alcohol has very damaging effects, not

only does it cause self-inflicted diseases resembling alcoholism or cirrhosis

of the liver, but it harms unborn fetuses as well. Many women drink alcohol

when they do not even know that they are pregnant yet. Alcohol can cause

disorders such as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Effects.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, FAS, is a congenital disorder which is

characterized by a variety of physical and behavioral traits that result from

maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy. The term Fetal Alcohol Effects,

FAE, indicates that alcohol is being considered as one of the possible causes of

a patient's birth defects. In other words, FAE is a less severe form of FAS.

Both FAS and FAE are the results of the use of teratogens, which are nongenetic

influences that can potentially complicate fetal development.(Harris, p.85)

FAS is due to the mother's consumption of alcohol during pregnancy.

Alcohol in the woman's bloodstream circulates to the fetus via the placenta.

There, the alcohol intrudes with the ability of the fetus to receive a

sufficient amount of oxygen and nourishment for normal development in the brain

and other body organs. The critical time for alcohol teratogenicity is around

the time of conception.

Effects of FAS/FAE

Although alcohol is the only cause of FAS, there are unfortunately

numerous effects. Infants with FAS may have a weak sucking response and an

irregular sucking pattern early in life. Some doctors describe them as

distracted and fatigued when sucking. Withdrawal symptoms such as prolonged

twitching, jitteriness, sweating, and hyperactivity have also been reported in

infants exhibited to alcohol before birth. (Timberlake and Birch, p.1)

Prenatal alcohol exposure is one of the leading known causes of mental

retardation in the United States. Mental retardation is usually mild to


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an increase in the number of women who abstain from alcohol during their

pregnancies. To reach that goal further research needs to continue. There must

be an improvement in public health surveillance methods, a refinement in

methods used for identifying children who have been affected by prenatal alcohol

exposure, a demonstration in the effectiveness of primary prevention programs,

and an investigation on the effectiveness of secondary intervention strategies,

such as foster-care placement and special education strategies.(Centers for

Disease Control and Prevention, p.4)

Not all women who drink during pregnancy will have an infant with FAS or

FAE, but if there is a 40-50% risk of harming the fetus, why chance it? Women

should be more careful when drinking, because drinking often leads to sex even

if it is not planned. The best prevention for FAS/FAE is to either abstain from

sexual intercourse while consuming alcohol, or abstain from alcohol while

planning a pregnancy. Therefore sexual partners should use birth control.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Effects are fully preventable and the

responsibility lies within the role of being parents.

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